Majority of Israelis oppose annexation, resettlement of Gaza – poll

Hebrew University survey finds only 33% of respondents support reoccupation of Palestinian enclave

View of structures in the former Jewish settlement of Gush Katif in the southern Gaza Strip on July 27, 2020. (Abed Rahim Khatib/ Flash90)
View of structures in the former Jewish settlement of Gush Katif in the southern Gaza Strip on July 27, 2020. (Abed Rahim Khatib/ Flash90)

More than half of Israelis oppose annexing the Gaza Strip and reestablishing settlements uprooted during Israel’s 2005 Disengagement, according to a poll from the Hebrew University published Sunday.

According to the survey of over 1,800 people, which was conducted on December 7-9, 56 percent of Israelis opposed such a policy in the long term, as opposed to only 33% in favor and 11% who were uncertain.

Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005, dismantling its settlements in the territory and leaving it in the control of the Palestinian Authority. Hamas took control of Gaza in 2007, and no elections have been held since. In the years since its withdrawal from Gaza, Israel has faced repeated attacks from terror groups, primarily Hamas, based in the coastal enclave.

Following Hamas’s shock October 7 onslaught in southern Israel, in which terrorists killed some 1,200 people and took around 240 hostage, followed by Israel’s declaration of its intention to topple the Hamas regime in Gaza, a coalition of nationalist groups has begun campaigning for the reestablishment of Gaza’s Gush Katif settlement bloc.

Although Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has discussed maintaining control of security in Gaza, he has not uttered the word “occupation.” The idea has been floated by members of his far-right coalition such as Heritage Minister Amichai Eliyahu, who opined last week that Israel “should fully occupy the Gaza Strip” following the war.

According to the Hebrew University poll, around 23% of Israelis support a coalition of moderate Arab states overseeing affairs in Gaza in the immediate postwar period, while 22% are in favor of Israeli military rule and 18% would like to see an international force take charge of the territory. A further 18% leaned toward the idea of Israel annexing Gaza, while only 11% expressed support for the return of the Palestinian Authority.

This handout photo distributed by the Israel Defense Forces on December 16, 2023, shows Israeli troops in the Gaza Strip amid the war against Hamas. (Israel Defense Forces)

Despite support for the idea in Washington, Netanyahu has expressed opposition to the Palestinian Authority taking control of Gaza after the war with Hamas ends. Moreover, Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the PA, is loath to be seen as assuming control of the Strip on the heels of an Israeli invasion.

At the G7 summit in Tokyo last month, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken rejected every possible iteration of occupation that has apparently bubbled up under consideration by Netanyahu, according to leaks to the Israeli media. These include resettlement of Israelis in Gaza, military occupation, “buffer zones” that Israel would control along Gaza’s border, a return to blockading the Strip — which was the status in place until October 6 — and the removal of a portion of the Palestinians, an action that would bolster charges of ethnic cleansing against Israel.

And despite US shuttle diplomacy aimed at securing Arab pledges of financing and troops to help maintain the peace in Gaza, Israel’s Arab allies have indicated that they are not ready to join with Jerusalem in a military effort to keep Gaza calm.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the United Arab Emirates, which has cultivated increasingly close ties with Israel in recent years, said it would help with the reconstruction of Gaza only if there’s progress toward a two-state solution.

The Biden administration has argued that Israel’s effort to remove Hamas should pave the way for an eventual return of the PA to Gaza followed by a renewed effort to negotiate a two-state solution.

A poll of 751 people conducted late last month by the Israel Democracy Institute found that more than half of Jewish Israelis opposed pursuing a two-state solution in exchange for continuing American support.

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