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The Steps That Would Follow The First Poll

 

An Introductory Note

 

This post may be a bit detailed for the casual reader. But the extra bit of detail is exactly what serious potential backers seek. Businesslike supporters want to know that following the Bermigo poll, we would be able to notify all relevant parties first regionally, and then beyond of any break-through poll-results. Specifically, that a comprehensive Bermigo poll has verified that it may be the one package that nearly all Palestinians can at least live with.

 

What, though, if the poll-results are promising — but insufficiently so? After all, many of the poll-respondents may be unsure of this novel plan. Not to mention, there definitely will be some opposition. So, are there steps we could take, right after the poll, to fortify Palestinian support to a level that makes it compelling?

 

And another point of much interest: Even if the poll proved broad Palestinian acquiescence to the Bermigo Plan, and the finding, widely publicized, how would the Israeli public react? After all, there's never been an arrangement for Israel to consider that the Palestinians, wall-to-wall, have said they would heed. Dr Mina Zemach, dean of Israeli pollsters, has long wanted to poll the Bermigo blueprint among Israelis, so could we team up to gauge Israeli reaction to the Palestinian findings?

This, and more, our potential backers are keen to know.

 

Going ahead with all these steps would depend entirely on the Palestinian poll-results. The advocacy for the Bermigo venture would end if the poll-results among Palestinians did not show sufficient promise.

What would constitute sufficient promise?

 

Over 60% of the Palestinian public voicing support for the Bermigo Plan, with a further 20% who "can live with it". Among the remainder (the opposition), less than 4% prepared to use lethal violence to oppose it.

 

Provided there's a healthy amount of support, the % opposed is not what’s critical. What is critical is the percentage that would use lethal violence to oppose the plan. Because it’s that small percentage that determines whether a venture like the Bermigo Plan is doable.

 

If the all-important first poll shows there is insufficient support, then we'll feel we conducted a highly important evaluation in the interests of everyone, but that unfortunately it failed. However, we have good cause to believe it won't fail.

 

Gordon Miller has held several discussions with all the main Palestinian pollsters, and with a bevy of experts who study the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. All feel that the poll-results of the pioneering Palestinian survey could be extremely promising. Our pilot trial confirms this.

 

With that hopeful projection in mind, we would follow up the poll with four key steps.

 

Our 4 overall steps that would follow a successful poll

1.   Publicizing the Bermigo Plan — and readiness of the Palestinians to accept it.

2.   Fortifying Palestinian support — already high — to a compelling level.

3.   Promulgating the poll-results throughout the Arab world and beyond.

4.   And then, turning our attention to the Israeli public — with a plan in hand

     universally acceptable to Palestinians.

 

The director of the Palestinian polling institute, Dr. Nabil Kukali, shares the view that this may prove a landmark poll. That the survey could illuminate a route, not previously visible, to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Dr. Kukali has been in the polling business in Palestine for 20 years, and his company naturally has close relations with Arab media throughout the Middle East which utilize his research.

 

Dr. Kukali, who as a Palestinian living in close proximity to Jerusalem feels a strong personal stake in the success of this project, intends to see that the poll-results, if promising, get maximum coverage in every main Arab newspaper, cable TV channel, and radio station throughout the region. And major news in the Arab world is always picked up throughout Europe — and not long after, further afield.

 

Targeting The Palestinian Authority In The West Bank,

     & Hamas Government In Gaza


Both the Fatah and Hamas leaderships might well give a nod to the Bermigo Plan if positive poll-results emerge (neither party has ever gone against the overriding majority will). This would raise support even higher, and cut still further into the small numbers lethally opposed to the deal.

 

Note that little in the Bermigo package runs counter to the sentiments of either leadership. So if over 80% of Palestinians attest they can live with the package, it should be easy for Palestinian/Middle-Eastern journalists to interview the prominent Fatah and Hamas members and get their public endorsement of the plan. That would give the plan a significant boost in multiple ways:

For starters, it would sway many of the “abstainers” – the many Palestinians who “neither-endorse-nor-oppose" the Bermigo package – to become at least tepid supporters. The pilot poll (albeit, a very small sampling of just a few dozen individuals) showed that up to 30% might abstain.

 

Among the reasons abstainers might make the switch after a Fatah and Hamas endorsement:

a)  Many will assume that if the blueprint passed muster with the two leaderships, it was thoroughly checked and no hidden flaws were found. Bear in mind that this is a very new kind of plan for Palestinians.

b)  Many will feel reassured that adopting a plan that has both leaderships on board will preserve Palestinian unity, rather than rip it apart. That's always a major concern of the public.

c)  In the same vein, many will feel that the ‘across-the-parties’ endorsement – and thus, adherence – will leave few dissenters wanting to, or able to, continue attacks on Israel. And thus ‘rob Israel of the excuse’ to retaliate and blow up the venture.

(Palestinians don’t buy Israel’s line that all her actions are retaliation against attacks. However, most feel that whenever America gets fed up with Israel, she reins her in. And that across-the-board Palestinian compliance would likely accomplish that)

d)   Finally, abstainers who are loyal followers of Fatah or Hamas would obviously lean towards following suit once their party’s leaders had okayed the idea.

 

Next, a Fatah and Hamas leadership endorsement would produce a renewed burst of publicity for the plan – and almost certainly at international level. It would be a major step in the campaign to put the Bermigo Plan firmly on the map.

 

Plus, the dual Palestinian leadership endorsement could not but have a profound impact on Western decision makers weighing whether to switch (from the conventional approach of a direct agreement between Israel and the Palestinians) to the entirely different Bermigo approach. Western governments have long conceded that Hamas – and therefore, Gaza in its entirety – won’t entertain the conventional approach. Now the West would see an eminently doable alternative that Gaza would not only entertain, but Hamas would actively cooperate with. The Western press would have a field day if American and European politicians ignored that.

 

So that's a key part of the Bermigo strategy: Get the Palestinian poll done, publicize the results throughout the Arab world, and show those same results to the PA and Hamas governments to get their endorsements. Support among the Palestinian public for the Bermigo package will then approach the critical level needed; a level that no other peace plan has remotely come close to.

 

Targeting The Leaderships Of The Palestinian Prisoners

 

People closely involved with Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts over the years — and critically, with ensuring unity among Palestinian factions — know that an indispensable key is getting the endorsement of the approx 6,000 Palestinian 'political' prisoners in Israeli jails. These are prisoners serving time for 'security-related' and 'ideological' crimes, ranging from indirect support of the Palestinian resistance to hands-on killing for that cause.

 

The prisoners are housed apart from regular prisoners. They are also separated amongst themselves according to political allegiance (mainly Fatah or Hamas). The jail-leaders of these factions exercise strict rule over their interned members, and represent them as would trade union leaders. And their decisions carry undue weight with all militants in Gaza and the West Bank.

 

A public word of support for the Bermigo package from the prisoner groups, once poll-results emerge, would have ENORMOUS impact. A word of condemnation would be equally damaging. The expectation of these incarcerated members is that any peace plan clearly include what it intends to do about prisoner release — else condemnation will be automatic.

 

The Bermigo Plan does have a detailed component dealing with prisoner release (The Release Of Palestinian 'Security Prisoners'), but the questionnaire does not include it - certainly not in the initial poll. The main reason is that Israelis are at once highly flexible (releasing 1000 prisoners in return for the bones of three Israeli soldiers), but also, highly volatile (cancelling scheduled prisoner release when there's the slightest terror incident, connected or not). So Israelis might be far more 'generous' regarding prisoner release than the Bermigo blueprint on this matter. Thus, why risk a negative Palestinian reaction to the Bermigo package over the issue? Thus, the Bermigo questionnaire skips this particular subject for the first poll.

 

However, the omission may mightily displease the Palestinian jail-leaders. Therefore, before the poll-results are common public knowledge, the Bermigo team will quietly explain the reason for the omission to the prisoner leaders. Gordon Miller has contacts with both the Israeli and Palestinian officials who deal daily with the prisoner population, and through them will inform the prisoner leaders of the strategy of the Bermigo Plan on the prisoner matter. Miller will seek the leaders' general endorsement of the Bermigo package "pending a satisfactory solution to the prisoner question." The prisoner population is actually quite pragmatic, and are often a critical arbitrating force for disputes outside.

 

This is an example of how comprehensively the Bermigo Plan has been thought through, not only in how the 25-year plan would best work, but also in the campaign to best put it on the map at the outset.

 

Targeting The US Public — Via US Jewry

 

Israel's self-imposed limitations on her plans for the West Bank (and Gaza) are determined first and foremost by the leeway she senses that America will grant her. For its part, US foreign policy never strays far from American public sentiment, which in turn, takes its cue from US Jewry on all matters concerning Israel. Another element in the mix is the stance of the huge US evangelical movement — but it, too, defers to the Jewish stance.

 

US Jewish sentiment is not homogeneous; it is deeply divided over Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, with a substantial majority (over 65%) opining that the occupation must end. Many are highly embarrassed by what they view as Israel’s unethical occupation and her intransigence in ending it, but few regard the Palestinians as trustworthy partners. Nearly all American Jews feel the Palestinians must recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

 

American Jewry falls roughly into 3 main camps. The most active — and effective — is the center-right to right wing segment that believes Israel should exact stringent terms from the Palestinians before she exits the West Bank. This group uses as its primary lobbying tactic that “the US should respect the policies of the democratically elected government of Israel.”

On the other flank are ‘peace-now’ Jews — probably less than 20% of US Jewry — who believe Israel can and should cut a reasonable deal with the Palestinians.

 

The largest segment of American Jewry, however, regards both flanks as evaders of responsibility: the right flank for papering over Israel’s unethical behaviour; the left flank for pretending a deal is doable.

 

It is this ‘middle segment’ that the Bermigo team would target, by meeting with mainstream Jewish leaders, rabbis, luminaries, etc who are far less consumed by ideology or emotion than the two flanks. The campaign would familiarize American Jews with the plan and with the poll-results, explaining how the Bermigo package is vastly more acceptable to Palestinians than the failed conventional approach — and yet would be materially no more costly to Israel. We, and many other champions of the plan, would emphasize that it's a practical, unsentimental, business-type deal that needs be judged on its ability to deliver the goods — not on whether the Palestinians (or Jews) need be let off the historical hook.

 

Gordon Miller has personally given many a presentation on the plan, and can attest that most of the audience soon forgets about sentiment, focusing instead on whether the components of the package would work. If poll results indisputably show that the Palestinian public would abide by the plan, this audience should grow exponentially — as should its number of advocates who in turn would address audiences, congregations, academic forums, political venues, and the media.

 

In today's world, where media outlets and organizations are an email away, the Bermigo media office (see below) would be weekly collating info on the most auspicious media outlets in each country, and most auspicious forums (university groups, organizations, political venues, etc) where Miller and others would present the plan and poll-results. Much can be collated in Israel, herself — from all the embassies and outsized number of foreign correspondents centered in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

 

Seminars & Conferences

 

There are several research institutes in Israel — some affiliated with universities, some independent — which organize conferences on political developments. Among them, the Truman Institute (affiliated with the Jerusalem University), the Van Leer Institute (unaffiliated), the Inter-Disciplinary Institute of Herzilia, the Begin-Sadat Center, the Dayan Center, and so on. Overseas institutes — notably the Adenauer Institute — often team up with local partners to do the same. Gordon Miller was once tasked by a potential donor to check whether the poll results on the Bermigo Plan would interest these bodies. Without exception, they replied they’d very be keen to organize conferences around promising findings.

 

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict also garners enormous interest worldwide, so there'll be no shortage of important forums further afield seeking to discuss the implications of promising poll-findings. Much publicity is likely to be generated within a very short time.

 

Additional Polls

 

In the first survey, the Palestinian public will be polled on the main components of the Bermigo Plan in quite some detail. In order not to excessively lengthen the already long questionnaire — and, in one or two cases, as a ‘tactic’ — certain components of the plan are omitted from the first poll and slated for a follow-up poll. Provided, that is, the first poll returns sufficiently promising results.

 

The omitted components omitted include: the terms of release of Palestinian prisoners; water rights; some clauses of the Old City Charter; restrictions on Palestinian weaponry; trade benefits and guarantees, etc. The follow-up poll would probably be conducted within 3 months of the first poll; its timing would depend on how widely the results of the first poll had been disseminated.

 

It may be wise that the Israeli public be polled fairly soon after the results of the first Palestinian poll are in. This is to preempt mischief by various Israeli groups who will rush to disparage the Bermigo venture: right wing groups who don’t want to exit the territories under any circumstances; left wing groups who won’t let go of the idea of a direct agreement between Israelis and Palestinians.

 

Both camps are notorious for conducting polls with questionnaires that nose-lead respondents into answers that suit the particular camp’s agenda. So it’s best there be an ‘untampered’ reference point from which to start charting Israeli opinion. Dr. Zemach has told Gordon Miller that she has several potential funders of a Israeli poll to follow publication of the Palestinian survey as soon as needed.

 

Continuing Research

 

The nature of polls — indeed, of research in general — is that certain routes prove non-doable, while other paths start to suggest promise. Moreover, there are no end of facets to explore in any Marshall-type venture, especially as widespread publication of the blueprint elicits the insights of more and more experts in different niches. It would be extremely useful to have a central repository which collects and collates all this otherwise scattered information; a small center, either allied with an existing institute or operating on its own, should be set up for the purpose.

 

An Office To Support Communication

 

If successful, an office will be needed to field phone calls, disseminate materials, coordinate appearances of members of the Bermigo team in the media, set up interviews, deal with conference invitations locally and abroad, etc.

 

A small, skilled staff — fluent in English, Hebrew and Arabic — would run the office, which most likely would be situated in East Jerusalem (where both Israelis and Arabs have unfettered access).

 

Several offers for continued funding of the Bermigo project might come forward if the all-important first poll returns promising results. Many bodies are keen to be associated with any auspicious new development in this realm. All offers would be evaluated in consultation with the board of trustees

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“The Bermigo Plan is possibly the only way out of an unacceptable situation for the two populations.”

– Prof. Dr. Angela Mickley