Jerusalem should be a neutral city say European voters

Opinion poll on Israeli-Palestinian conflict reveals Europeans prefer contested Jerusalem to be no one’s capital city

Tom Clark |, Sunday 13 March 2011 19.43 GMT

Aerial Views Of Jerusalem
European voters, polled by ICM, want Jerusalem to be neutral, not a national capital. Photograph: David Silverman/Getty Images

Europeans believe Jerusalem should be a neutral, international city, as opposed to being a national capital for either the Israelis or the Palestinians, according to a poll undertaken by ICM in six of the continent’s big nations.

Some 57% of the 7,000 voters surveyed for Middle East Monitor, a thinktank with Palestinian sympathies, believe the divided city that Israel claims as its capital should not be a capital at all, with 45% favouring the option of internationalisation. Only 9% and 6% respectively believe the city should serve as the capital of Israel or of a prospective Palestinian state.

The predominant European attitude is war weariness, with 65% citing “violence/fighting” as one of the first things to come to mind when Israel/Palestine is mentioned, and some 32% naming the unwillingness of the two sides to compromise as the single biggest obstacle to peace, almost three times the number who single out any other problem.

But there are some signs of Europeans laying more blame on Israelis: 25% describe Israel as “the primary aggressors”, but 13% say the same of the Palestinians, who are, by a five-to-one margin, deemed the primary victims. For 51%, the besieged Gaza strip comes to mind when conflict is mentioned, against 30% who name suicide bombers, a possible sign that Israel’s 2008-9 Gaza campaign damaged its reputation.

Unlike in some past surveys, a plurality of Europeans – including Britons – is clear that Israel is the occupying force, and that settlers are Israelis and not Palestinians. And while there is an overwhelming belief that Palestinian rockets are illegal (75% of respondents), the balance of European opinion also believes Israel’s armed response to supply ships (64%), its Gaza blockade (53%) and its separation wall (46%) fall foul of international law.

One controversial belief uncovered in the research, which was presented at the al-Jazeera forum in Doha is that Israel exploits the history of Jewish suffering to generate public support – 48% of respondents agree with this, against 23% who disagree. Some may find it disturbing that 53% of Germans take this view.

Overall, however, Europeans are strikingly even-handed in their concern about the conflict’s tendency to stoke prejudice – 39% of respondents say it stokes Islamophobia, as against 36% who worry it fuels anti-Semitism.

The countries in the ICM survey: UK, France, Spain, the Netherlands, Germany and Italy.

Jerusalem should be a neutral city say European voters | World news | The Guardian.

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