The Arab-American Institute and Americans for Peace Now recently commissioned a poll of Arab and Jewish Americans on their attitudes about the Arab-Israeli conflict. The poll was taken by Zogby International (whose President/CEO, John Zogby, is the brother of James Zogby, director of the Arab-American Institute).
The results of the poll were that overall, American Jews and Arabs share a remarkably common perspective on the conflict, which is that they support a two-state solution, think Israeli occupation and settlements are an obstacle to peace, think the US should enter negotiations with Iran and Syria, support the Arab League Peace Initiative, etc.
This poll is a perfect example of how easy it is to produce desired results by asking questions in the right way. For example, here’s a question about the two-state solution:
Would you strongly support, somewhat support, somewhat oppose, or strongly oppose a negotiated peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians that included the establishment of an independent, secure Palestinian state alongside an independent, secure Israeli state, and resolved final status issues of Jerusalem, refugees, and borders?
In other words, if there were an agreement that would solve everyone’s problems and meet everybody’s needs in peace and security, would you support it?
It is more or less impossible to disagree. The devil is in the details, of course, and some of us would say that the difficulty of the two-state solution is the difficulty of keeping an Israeli state secure with a Palestinian state next door. And we won’t even ask how the “final status issues” could be resolved to both sides’ satisfaction.
Another example is the following question:
Recently a blue-ribbon, bipartisan panel looking at the Middle East situation suggested, “The United States will not be able to achieve goals in the Middle East unless the United States deals directly with the Arab-Israeli conflict.” [sic] Do you strongly agree, somewhat agree, somewhat disagree, or strongly disagree that a serious US effort regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will help America achieve broader goals in the Middle East?
Of course this refers to the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group report. The original formulation in the report said “The United States will not be able to achieve its goals in the Middle East”; leaving out “its” weakens the proposition. Even so, the statement is still highly doubtful. I would argue, for example, that the Israeli-Palestinian issue has little or no effect on what happens in Iraq, or on the export of terrorism from Saudi Arabia and Iran, or on the Iranian nuclear project — issues that relate to important American goals.
But the restatement which constitutes Zogby’s actual question is weaker yet:
…a serious US effort regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will help America achieve broader goals in the Middle East?
Well, duh, how can anyone disagree with that? How can a serious effort not have good results? And 80% of both American Jews and Arabs agreed.
Or take this one. Choose A or B:
Statement A: Diplomacy with Iran is a waste of time and the US needs to prepare now for military action.
Statement B: It is vital that the US engage in serious diplomacy with Iran and the international community which could prevent another war.
Let’s see, do we want to engage in diplomacy which could prevent war, or would we prefer war? Is it a surprise that American Jews and Arabs overwhelmingly opposed war?
Finally, my favorite question, about the Arab League Peace initiative. Does the average American Jew or Arab know exactly what’s in the initiative? Does he or she know that it insists on a full return to the 1967 lines (including Jerusalem), and a solution to the refugee problem in accordance with resolution 194, which the Arabs have always interpreted as implying a right of return to Israel? Or that it is offered as a non-negotiable proposition, take it or leave it? If they don’t, here’s how Zogby presents it:
The Arab League recently reaffirmed its commitment to the 2002 Arab League Peace Initiative. This initiative offers Israel full diplomatic relations with all Arab countries in exchange for an agreed-on comprehensive solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Do you strongly support, somewhat support, somewhat oppose or strongly oppose this initiative as a basis for negotiations?
Full diplomatic relations in return for a comprehensive solution! What a win-win situation! It’s surprising that even a meager 29% of American Jews opposed this; they must be the ones that actually know what’s in it.