‘Most Israeli Jews would annex part of West Bank’

Ariel University poll claims nearly 80% support expanding Israeli sovereignty — unilaterally, or as part of a deal with the Palestinians

Ilan Ben Zion, a reporter at the Associated Press, is a former news editor at The Times of Israel. He holds a Masters degree in Diplomacy from Tel Aviv University and an Honors Bachelors degree from the University of Toronto in Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, Jewish Studies, and English.

Illustrative: The Beit Aryeh settlement in the West Bank, January 2013. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)
Illustrative: The Beit Aryeh settlement in the West Bank, January 2013. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)

The overwhelming majority of Israeli Jews support Israel extending its sovereignty over some or all of the West Bank, either unilaterally or as part of an agreement, according to an Ariel University poll published Sunday.

The survey, conducted by the Geocartography Institute on behalf of the Israeli university in the West Bank, found that 35 percent of respondents said the government should annex the entire West Bank, 24% said only the settlement blocs should be annexed, 20% answered that any annexation should only take place as part of an agreement with the Palestinians, and 12% said Israel doesn’t need to impose its sovereignty over any part of the West Bank. Nine percent had no answer.

According to the wording of the university’s pollsters, however, “about 80% of the public supports extending Israeli sovereignty to the territories of Judea and Samaria,” biblical terms associated with the West Bank.

Five hundred adult respondents “in Jewish communities in Israel” participated in the survey, which had a margin of error of 4.4%.

A similar poll conducted last year had virtually identical results, except only 15% supported annexation of West Bank territories as part of a deal with the Palestinians, as opposed to 20% in this year’s survey.

A breakdown of the statistics according to political stance found that 50% of those who defined themselves as right-wing advocated annexation of the entire West Bank, 25% advocated annexing the settlement blocs and 13% responded in favor of annexation as part of a peace deal. Only 5% of right-wingers opposed annexation of any of the West Bank.

Centrists were divided over annexing West Bank territory. Sixteen percent were in favor of total annexation, 31% in favor of annexing the settlement blocs, 30% in favor of annexation as part of a negotiated agreement, and 16% were opposed to any annexation.

Among self-defined leftists, 33% opposed any annexation, and an identical figure supported annexation as part of a peace deal; 14% backed annexing the settlement blocs, and 13% advocated annexing the entirety of the West Bank.

The findings in the poll, conducted ahead of the Ariel Law and Communications Conference to be held at the university later in April, were not seen as surprising by some on the left.

Gershon Baskin, founder and co-chairman of the Israel Palestine Center for Research and Information, reacted by telling The Times of Israel: “Those of us in the peace camp also think that it is necessary to annex about 4% of the West Bank as part of a land swap, in order to accommodate about 80% of the settlers. The Palestinians also understand that partial annexation with a land swap is the way forward.

“The answer is to annex what can be annexed in exchange for equal uninhabited territory within the Green Line,” Israel’s pre-1967 frontier, as part of an agreement with the Palestinians, Baskin said.

But Peace Now director Yariv Oppenheimer told The Times of Israel that he was skeptical of the findings, calling the Ariel college — which was made an official university last year — a “totally political institute.” Contrary to the survey’s findings, the Israeli public’s political direction “is much more to the left than in the past,” as demonstrated in January’s elections, he said.

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