Nearly half of Jewish Israelis oppose unilateral West Bank annexation – poll

In survey conducted by INSS think tank before US peace plan’s release, 26% of respondents favored applying sovereignty to existing settlement blocs, 55% favored two-state solution

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu points at a map of the Jordan Valley as he gives a statement, promising to extend Israeli sovereignty to the Jordan Valley and northern Dead Sea area, in Ramat Gan on September 10, 2019. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu points at a map of the Jordan Valley as he gives a statement, promising to extend Israeli sovereignty to the Jordan Valley and northern Dead Sea area, in Ramat Gan on September 10, 2019. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)

Nearly half of all Jewish Israelis oppose any unilateral annexation of territory in the West Bank, with the remaining half split on what specific areas are suitable for annexation, according to a new poll by a leading Israeli think tank released on Monday.

The findings were published ahead of the Institute for National Security Studies’ annual conference this week, which coincided with the release of US President Donald Trump’s plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The INSS study, conducted by public opinion researcher Tzipi Israeli, found that 45 percent of Jewish Israelis are against unilateral annexation of any territory in the West Bank, 26% support annexing existing Israeli settlement blocs in the West Bank, 14% support annexing all areas surrounding Israeli settlements, 8% support annexing the larger Area C, and 7% support annexing the entire West Bank.

On Tuesday following the plan’s release, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that he planned to bring the annexation of the Jordan Valley and all West Bank settlements for a vote in the upcoming cabinet meeting on Sunday.

Ahead of Trump’s peace plan release Tuesday, both Netanyahu and his main rival, Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz, voiced support, to differing degrees, for applying Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley, an area that is seen as deeply important for Israeli national security concerns.

Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz (C) speaks to reporters during a visit to the Jordan Valley on January 21, 2020. (Elad Malka/Blue and White)

Some 800 people participated in the poll by the firm Public Opinion Research of Israel, with surveyors conducting door-to-door interviews. Of the 800 participants, 600 were Jewish Israelis and the other 200 were Arab Israelis. It had a 4% margin of error, Israeli said.

The poll was conducted prior to the release of the Trump plan.

If Israel were to annex the West Bank or portions of it, approximately half of the Jewish Israelis polled said that Palestinians should be given residency status, but not citizenship. Just under a quarter of those surveyed — 22% — said Palestinians living in annexed areas should be granted full citizenship, and 32% said they should be given neither citizenship nor residency status.

The full survey, which will be released following this week’s conference, consisted of approximately 80 questions, the majority of which have been asked in previous years to allow Israeli and the INSS to track responses over time. The think tank has been conducting this national security-related poll annually since 1984, Israeli said.

Nearly all of the 80 questions are asked of both Jewish and Arab Israelis, with the exception of a few questions regarding Jewish-Arab relations that are not asked of the latter group for “sensitivity” reasons, Israeli said.

President Donald Trump, right, looks over to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, during an event in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2020 (AP/Susan Walsh)

There are also some questions that are only asked of Arab Israeli subjects, she added.

“In general, Jews think everything will be okay, that the state will take care of it. The Arabs less so, I think,” Israeli said.

Fifty-five percent of Jewish Israelis support a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, this year’s poll found. In 2006, that number was 71% and it has been decreasing steadily since then to its current nadir.

The overwhelming majority of Israelis do not see a two-state solution to the conflict in the offing, according to the survey, with 74% of those surveyed saying they believed it would either never happen or would only happen in the distant future. Another 15% said they didn’t know if a two-state solution could happen in the foreseeable future.

Asked what was Israel’s best option for addressing the conflict with the Palestinians, a plurality of Israelis — 37% — supported efforts to negotiate a full resolution. Nearly a quarter encouraged interim agreements to separate from the Palestinians; 14% saw the current situation as the best possible option; 17% favored the annexation of Jewish settlements in the West Bank; and 9% said the best option was the full annexation of the West Bank and a one-state solution.

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