Palestinians Prefer McCain to Obama, Poll Shows

By Julie Stahl | September 17, 2008 | 11:40 AM EDT

Jerusalem ( – Palestinians prefer Republican presidential candidate John McCain to Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, the results of a Palestinian opinion poll released on Wednesday show.
The survey conducted by the Bethlehem-based Palestinian Center for Public Opinion found that 33.5 percent of Palestinians surveyed favored McCain; 27.7 percent favored Obama; 30.4 percent did not favor either candidate; and 8.3 percent declined to answer.
PCPO director-general Dr. Nabil Kukali attributed Obama’s “modest” showing to remarks he made regarding Jerusalem.
At a meeting of the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC in June, Obama said that Jerusalem would “remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided.” In doing so, he actually went beyond current U.S. policy, which maintains that the status of Jerusalem is a final status issue in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks to be decided by the two sides.
Obama backtracked on the statement the next day after coming under fire from Palestinians and others. 
Israel maintains that Jerusalem is its undivided, eternal capital (though current Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is rumored to being planning to divide it) while Palestinians want the eastern part of the city to become the capital of a future Palestinian state.
“Mr. Obama emphasized thereby the legitimate right of Israel to annex the whole city,” Kukali said.
According to Kukali, Palestinians are very interested in the U.S. presidential race.
“For Palestinians, it is important to see who will win the elections in the U.S.,” Kukali told
It’s not that Palestinians like McCain but that maybe they “prefer” him to Obama, Kukali said. They think that since McCain is part of the same political party as President Bush – who is currently working hard on Israeli-Palestinian peace process – that he would be more likely to maintain the same momentum, he said.
Also, they see that McCain has more experience in the international arena, he added.
(Both McCain and Obama have pledged to continue working on the peace process.)
Kukali said he didn’t think McCain’s choice of a woman -- Alaska Governor Sarah Palin -- as a running mate mattered to Palestinians.
He noted that in the first elections for the Palestinian Authority in 1996, a woman, Samicha Halil, ran against PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat for president.
“She didn’t win but at least she tried,” he said.