Israelis and Palestinians are highly mistrustful of each other, but a small majority will support a final-status deal if it comes with the right incentives, according to a joint Israeli-Palestinian poll released on Monday.
Palestinian pollster Khalil Shikaki argued his study showed the right incentive is a deal that would see both sides mutually benefiting from a regional peace involving the Arab world and Israel.
The poll found that 51 percent of Palestinians and 59% of Israelis still support, as a concept, the two-state solution to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“We are not yet at the point of no return,” said Tamar Hermann, an Israeli political scientist who conducted the survey along with Shikaki.
However, only a minority of Israelis (46%) and Palestinians (39%) support a peace deal based on the parameters of previous negotiations (the “package peace deal”), which include: a demilitarized Palestinian state, Israeli withdrawal to the Green Line (pre-June 1967 lines) with equal territorial exchange as relevant, a family unification in Israel of 100,000 Palestinian refugees, West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine, and the end of the conflict and claims.
The pollsters sought to determine what incentives could convert Israelis and Palestinians from opposing to supporting a peace deal, such as becoming part of the EU and keeping Jerusalem an open city.
Among the possibilities proposed by the pollsters, only a regional peace deal brokered by Arab states could flip enough of Israeli and Palestinian opposers into supporters so a majority would back a package peace deal.
The poll found only Arab states, as opposed to the United States or the European Union, were equally trusted by both sides to broker a regional peace deal.
About 25% of both sides said a regional peace deal would convert them into supporters.
While 59% of all Israelis supported the two-state solution in theory, among Jews that number drops to 53%. Support for a Palestinian state ran to 87% among Israel’s Arab minority.
Hermann said she believed Israeli Arab support was so high because they believe any peace arrangement “would dramatically improve their situation in Israel.”
“They believe their stigma as a fifth column would disappear,” she said.
As for a one-state solution, just 34% of Palestinians and 20% of Israelis said they support the idea of a single shared state where both are citizens with equal rights.
89% of Palestinians mistrust Israeli Jews
After two decades of failed peace efforts, and nearly a year of sustained low-level violence, distrust is very high, according to the poll, which interviewed 1,270 Palestinians and 1,184 Israelis in June.
The poll found that 89% of Palestinians feel Israeli Jews are untrustworthy, while 68%of Israeli Jews held similar opinions toward the Palestinians.
It also found that 65% of Israelis fear Palestinians. In contrast, just 45 percent of Palestinians fear Israelis.
The survey had a margin of error of 3 percentage points. It was conducted by the Israel Democracy Institute, where Hermann is a senior fellow, and Shikaki’s Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research
Religious Palestinians, Israelis most opposed to peace deal
Data from the poll showed religiosity level was a good indicator of whether an Israeli or Palestinian would oppose or support a peace deal based on the parameters of previous negotiations.
“Here stereotypical thinking of the other turns out to be right,” Hermann noted.
Support for the “package peace deal” among Israeli Jews who define themselves as secular stood at 56% compared to 36% among traditionalists, 10% among the religious, and 9% among the ultra-Orthodox.
Similarly, among the Palestinians support for the package deal is higher among those who define themselves as “not religious” and “somewhat religious” (63% and 41%) compared to those who define themselves as religious (35%); and among Fatah voters (57%) compared to Hamas voters (25%).
“If your beliefs about the conflict comes from a religious source, they become sacred values, and it’s hard to negotiate with sacred values,” Shakiki said.
However, the Palestinian pollster said the religious are “are willing to compromise, but they need incentives that address issues related to moral needs, or incentives that ensure their narratives.”
Hermann argued that since a slim majority still supports a two-state solution, “public opinion is not the main obstacle to a peace deal. It is a springboard that can change the situation.”
The current peace stalemate is “all about the leaders,” she said.