While the US may have slackened its commitment to Palestinian statehood, about half of Israelis and Palestinians still back a two-state solution to the conflict, although support is dipping, a survey published Thursday found.
Pollsters said that 55 percent of Israelis and 44% of Palestinians still favor the principle of a two-state solution, down from 59% of Israelis and 51% of Palestinians asked the same question in June 2016. A majority of Israeli Arabs, however, oppose a two-state solution, instead favoring a single state or a confederation.
When respondents were given details of what such a deal would entail, based on draft two-state solutions presented during real past negotiations, support for it dropped to 42% among Palestinians and 48% among Israelis (41% among Jews, and 88% among Arab citizens of Israel).
The theoretical proposal included a demilitarized Palestinian state, Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines, land swaps, the return of 100,000 Palestinian refugees to Israeli territory, the recognition of West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and East Jerusalem as the Palestinian one (with the Old City being split between the two) and a declaration that the conflict had come to an end.
When other conditions were introduced to respondents, the picture began to change.
“When those who opposed such an agreement were asked about a range of additional incentives to the original package, the findings showed significant potential for greater support,” the pollsters said in a press release. “Certain incentives were offered separately to Jewish Israelis, Arab Israelis and Palestinians, and several identical or similar items were asked of all populations.”
The prospect of a regional agreement involving Israel and the Arab world persuaded 30% of Israeli Jews and 28% of Palestinians who had opposed previous draft agreements to indicate support. Ultimately, a two-state solution arrived at within the broader context of a regional deal would be supported by 57% of Palestinians and 58% of Israeli Jews.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has of late promoted some form of regional solution, a stance heartily endorsed by US President Donald Trump when the two men met Wednesday.
A deal under which Jews who fled Arab countries after the establishment of Israel in 1948 would receive compensation for assets they left behind would boost support for a two state solution among 40% of Jewish Israelis who otherwise oppose it.
Among Palestinians and Arab Israelis, 44% of two-state opponents said they’d change their mind if Israel provided unfettered access to Palestinian laborers under a peace deal.
The survey, was conducted by the Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Research, Tel Aviv University and the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research in Ramallah and was funded by the European Union, the press release said. It was carried out in December 2016 among 1,270 Palestinians and 1,207 Israelis and has a margin of error of 3%.
During his Wednesday meeting with Netanyahu, Trump refused to commit to a two-state solution, saying “we have to look at new ways” to reach peace. “I’m looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like,” he said. Netanyahu reiterated his call for a “regional” approach that included Arab states and noted that he would discuss such an initiative with Trump, who expressed enthusiasm for the prospect.
In all the scenarios presented in the survey, the two-state solution was more popular than the alternatives. Just 24% of Israelis favored a one-state solution, with 28% favoring some kind of confederation. Both those options attracted just over a third of Palestinians.
On issues of mutual trust, a massive 86% of Palestinians believed that they could not trust Israeli Jews, with 71% of Jews saying they were unable to trust Palestinians.
Two thirds of Israeli Jews said they were frightened of Palestinians while 43% of Palestinians said they feared Israeli Jews in general. Just over half (51%) of Palestinians admitted being scared of soldiers and armed settlers. By contrast, 82% of Israeli Arabs said they were not frightened of Israeli Jews at all.
Israelis and Palestinians were in agreement that the new Trump administration tends to favor Israel in the conflict. Most were not hopeful about progress toward peace.