Friday, September 25, 2009

More cherry-picking from Reuters

Reuters' writers love to cherry-pick poll results in an effort to prop up their perspective on the Middle East conflict as we documented here, and following his recent pessimism that Obama will be able to achieve a peace agreement with a snap of his fingers, Douglas Hamilton displays a newfound, albeit tentative, optimism based on a poll conducted by the International Peace Institute.

First, some introductions are in order. The president of the IPI is none other than Terje Roed-Larsen who has a long history of official and semi-official diplomatic involvement in the Middle East conflict going back to his role in the ill-fated Oslo Accords in the early 1990s. Roed-Larsen is perhaps best known for famously describing Yasir Arafat as someone who "embodies Palestinian identity and aspirations". Ouch!

Moving along, the first figure from the poll which stands out (but goes unmentioned by Reuters) is that contrary to the heavily promoted clamor for a Jewish settlement freeze, only 7% of Palestinians actually feel that halting settlement building activity and house demolitions would advance the peace process. So much for that notion.

While the IPI finds that a majority of Palestinians now support a "two-state" solution, Reuters erroneously reports this as being based on the 2003 Road Map when in fact, the two-state solution envisioned by respondents is one based on the Arab Peace Initiative. (See poll results).

As a reminder, the "Arab Peace Initiative" calls for Israel to withdraw from all land liberated in the 1967 war, the creation of a Palestinian state on that land, and a return of Palestinian refugees (and their descendants) consistent with UNGA resolution 194, i.e., to their former homes in Israel. In other words, the Palestinians are willing to agree to two states as long as they obtain 100% of the disputed territories and the right to flood Israel with several million 2nd, 3rd, and 4th generation denizens. Not exactly an embrace of Obama's call for "two states for two peoples".

Moreover, a majority of Palestinians reject dividing Jerusalem where Jewish neighborhoods, the Jewish Quarter, and the Western Wall would go to Israel. Apparently, Reuters correspondents felt this result too trivial (or too disheartening) for their readers so they decided to omit it from their report.

Also unreported is the fact that while 44% of Palestinians consider internal political divisions to be their biggest problem, only 30% consider the "Israeli occupation" as such and just 23% identify the "blockade of Gaza". (It would be interesting to measure this result against the relative number of articles Reuters devotes to each concern).

Reuters does report however, Terje Roed-Larsen's breathless conclusion that:

"Palestinians as a people are ready to be a peace partner for Israel."

We think Roed-Larsen (and Reuters) ought to have a closer look at his poll results.

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