Support up among Israelis, Palestinians for violent solution to conflict — poll

Spike likely due to US declaration of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, pollsters say; majority no longer supports 2-state solution; both sides see rivals as untrustworthy

Michael Bachner is a news editor at The Times of Israel

Illustrative. Palestinian protesters burn tires and clash with Israeli troops following protests against US President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, December 8, 2017. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)
Illustrative. Palestinian protesters burn tires and clash with Israeli troops following protests against US President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, December 8, 2017. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)

Support for armed struggle has almost doubled among Palestinians in the last six months, while Israeli backing for a decisive military offensive to end the conflict increased during the same period by almost 60 percent, according to a poll published Thursday that said the rise was most likely linked to  US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

The survey also found that most Israeli Jews and most Palestinians no longer believe the two-state solution is a possible way to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The findings are detailed in Palestinian-Israeli Pulse, a joint poll published by the Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Research (TSC), Tel Aviv University and the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research in Ramallah.

The poll, published every six months, was conducted in December 2017, after Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem. The declaration angered Palestinians and led their leadership to boycott the Trump administration ever since.

“Palestinian attitudes become more pessimistic in general and support for militancy rose following US President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital,” said the pollsters in a press release summarizing their findings.

They further said, “The decline in viability [of a two-state solution] is probably due to the announcement by President Trump recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.”

The declaration saw a spike in violent protests in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. There has also been a surge in rocket attacks from Gaza and Hamas, the terror group which rules Gaza and seeks to destroy Israel, has called for a new intifada to liberate Jerusalem and urged Palestinians to confront soldiers and settlers.

When asked what should happen next, just 26% percent of Palestinians chose the option of a peace deal, a staggering decline from 45% last June. Thirty-eight percent supported armed struggle, up from just 21% in the previous survey.

A similar but less extreme trend was seen among Israeli Jews. Thirty-eight percent said a peace deal should be sought, down from 45% six months ago, and the percentage of supporters for a “decisive military offensive” to end the conflict increased from 12% to 19%.

US President Donald Trump signing a proclamation that the US government will formally recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, at the White House in Washington, DC, December 6, 2017. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images via JTA)

The poll found that just 46% of Israeli Jews and the same percentage of Palestinians support the concept of a two-state solution, with others supporting either a single democratic state, a single “apartheid-style” state or full expulsion. Support for the two-state solution among Palestinians dropped six points since the previous poll, published in June 2017, while Israeli Jewish support remained almost unchanged.

Israeli Arabs are the most supportive of the two-state solution, with 83% favoring it over the alternatives.

When presented with a detailed nine-point package outlining a possible two-state solution based on previous negotiations, 40% of polled Palestinians supported it, down from 43% six months ago. Support for the package among Israeli Jews increased from 32% to 35%, but remains significantly lower than the 48% who supported it in June 2016.

The proposed nine-point peace deal included establishing a demilitarized Palestinian state, an Israeli withdrawal to pre-June 1967 lines with equal territorial exchange, family unification in Israel for 100,000 Palestinian refugees, declaring West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine with the Old City divided between the two sides, and a mutual ending of the conflict and all claims.

Palestinian protesters clash with Israeli security forces on January 13, 2018, in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh. (AFP PHOTO / ABBAS MOMANI)

When adding to the package an Israeli recognition of the Palestinian Nakba, or catastrophe, of 1948 and of the suffering of Palestinian refugees, many Palestinians who oppose the original package said they would support it. In that case, a majority of Palestinians would support the deal.

The same is true for Israeli Jews if the agreement would ensure that Jews could visit the Temple Mount compound in Jerusalem’s Old City, Judaism’s holiest site,  which is known as al-Haram al-Sharif in Islam, where it is the third-holiest site. When added to the Israeli supporters of the original package, this would raise total support to a significant majority.

However, no details were provided on Israeli support for a deal including recognition of the Nakba and refugees’ suffering, or on Palestinian support for an agreement allowing Jews to enter the Temple Mount.

The poll also found that nearly half of Israeli Jews and 60% of Palestinians believe that Israeli settlements in the West Bank have expanded so much that the two-state solution is no longer viable.

Large majorities on both sides deem the other side untrustworthy. Perceived lack of feasibility and trust were significantly correlated to opposition to the two-state solution. Findings also show a decline in the percentage of Israeli Jews and Palestinians who think the other side wants peace.

The poll was conducted in December 2017 among representative samples of 1,270 Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza and 900 Israelis, with over-sampling of settlers and Arab citizens. The margin of error is 3% for both populations.

The poll was conducted with funding from the European Union, the Netherlands’ representative office in Ramallah, and the UN’s Program of Assistance to the Palestinian People (UNDP/PAPP) on behalf of the representative office of Japan to Palestine.

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