Colin Irwin first went to Israel and Palestine nearly 40 years ago just after the 67 War in 1968. Since then he has visited Israel and Palestine as a researcher based at the Israel Institute of Applied Social Research (IIASR) and Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs (PASSIA) in Jerusalem. Both Israeli and Palestinian academics engaged in programmes of public opinion research are familiar with his work in Northern Ireland and his concerns about the failures of their own work as effective contributions to negotiations. Northern Ireland, Israel and Palestine are perhaps the two most studied conflicts in the world and this includes extensive public opinion polls. Unfortunately, in Israel and Palestine this is not done in close collaboration with the political parties as a collective exercise to find solutions to problems and because of this omission serious mistakes are made from a negotiation and mediation perspective.
However, at a time of change of Administration in the US, a new government in Israel and the appointment of George Mitchell as the President's Special Envoy to the Middle East the time seemed right to introduce some of the public opinion and public diplomacy methods employed as part of the Northern Ireland peace process to Israel and Palestine. One of the key features of these methods is to ask the people living in and through a conflict what they believe are the 'problems' that lay at the heart of their conflict, what the 'solutions' to these 'problems' might be and then to test these perceptions in both their own community and the society of their reported adversary. A month of such interviews in Israel and Palestine produced two very different questionnaires. One that focuses on the main features of a peace agreement, what negotiators frequently refer to as 'substantive issues' and the other on the failures of past negotiations associated with the 'peace process' itself.
The analysis of the substantive issues covered in the first part of this poll suggests that the shape of an agreement for a two state solution may not be very different to the various solutions proposed in the past. However, the results of the second part of this poll suggest that the peace process itself is in much need of reform and on this point there appears to be sufficient grounds upon which to establish an Israeli/Palestinian consensus for new negotiations that are not subject to the failings of the past.
Download and read the full report Israel and Palestine: Public Opinion, Public Diplomacy and Peace Making. It includes both Part 1 'The Shape of an Agreement' and Part 2 'Process'.
Also download a copy of the full questionnaire and results for Israel and Palestine.
For a comparative analysis see Public Opinion and the Politics of Peace Research: Northern Ireland, Balkans, Israel, Palestine, Cyprus, Muslim World and the 'War on Terror' and The Belfast Agreement: How to Win a Referendum and the Next Election.
For links to Palestinian and Israeli polls on their peace process see:
Jerusalem Media and Communication Centre (JMCC)
Palestinian Centre for Policy and Social Research (PCPSR)
Near East Consulting
The Harry S. Truman Institute for the Advancement of Peace
The Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Research
Israel-Palestine Center for Research and Information (IPCRI)
And for balanced commentary see: