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Israel and the Palestinians

Positive Reaction to Arab League Proposal

A modest majority looks favorably on the formula proposed by the Arab League in 2002, in which the Arab countries would fully normalize relations with Israel, if Israel would withdraw to its pre-1967 borders.

On March 28, 2002, a meeting of the Arab League in Beirut agreed on a proposal, grounded in ideas that Saudi Arabia's Prince Abdullah had been floating for several months. The Arab countries offered full normalization of relations with Israel, if Israel would withdraw to its pre-1967 borders. The proposal also dropped the Arab countries' usual demand for a "right of return" to Israel for Palestinian refugees, and instead referred to a "just solution" that could be arrived at through negotiations.

Some poll questions have asked Americans about this general formula, though none of them have mentioned the Beirut meeting itself. Depending on how the formula is described, pluralities to modest majorities have been supportive of it.

In mid-March 2002, 47% thought Israel should "agree to return all of the territory it acquired in its war with Arab countries in 1967 in exchange for recognition by all Arab countries of Israel's right to exist;" 33% were opposed and 20% were not sure (Time/CNN). Also in mid-March, 52% said they would support "a plan in which Israel would withdraw from the territories it occupied in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, and in exchange the Arab nations would recognize Israel's right to exist;" 23% were opposed and 26% had no opinion (ABC). In a follow-up question, though, only 22% of the full sample said the US should pressure Israel to accept such a plan, if Israel opposes it. [1]

However, a question asked in early April 2002-in the midst of the Israeli offensive-found a robust majority (59%) in favor of the US "pressur[ing] Israel to give back lands it seized in the 1967 war, in exchange for Arab countries' fully normalizing relations with Israel." Only 26% were opposed (15% not sure; NBC/Wall Street Journal). [2] This 7-to-12 point increase over previous questions on the same theme suggests two things: that "normalizing relations," as opposed to mere recognition of Israel, is a nuance that some Americans pick up; and that the Israeli offensive itself probably influenced some Americans toward greater willingness to pressure Israel.



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