JERUSALEM (JTA) – Most Israelis and Palestinians oppose the kind of peace deal that has been under negotiation in the past, a new poll found.
When presented with a permanent status agreement based on previous Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, nearly 60 per cent of both Israeli Jews and Palestinians are against it, according to the joint poll by leading Israeli and Palestinian think tanks. But about a quarter of those opposed would reconsider if the deal were part of a broader regional peace based on the Arab Peace Initiative.
“It is very clear that a majority of Israelis and Palestinians at this point have responded with opposition to the package,” Professor Khalil Shikaki, director of the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, told JTA. However, we were able to easily change their minds simply by adding the Arab peace component. We got close to 55 per cent support for the package when it is an Arab-Israeli peace rather than just a Palestinian-Israeli peace.”
The Palestinian think tank and the Israel Democracy Institute, a leading research centre in Jerusalem, surveyed 1,184 Israelis and 1,270 Palestinians, revealing little consensus on the parameters of peace and mistrust and fear of the other on both sides – along with some hope for flexibility.
Small majorities of Israelis (59 per cent) and Palestinians (51 per cent) support a two-state solution to the conflict between their peoples, the poll found. Significant minorities of Israeli Jews (20 per cent) and Palestinians (34 per cent) want a one-state solution. A two-state solution would create an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel. A one-state solution would include Israelis and Palestinians in a single state.
Last year, 51 per cent of both Israelis and Palestinians supported a two-state solution, according to a similar survey the Palestinian centre conducted annually with the Truman Institute for the Advancement of Peace at the Hebrew University from 2000.
The peace deal offered in the latest poll included a demilitarized Palestinian state, reciprocal national recognition, Israeli withdrawal to its pre-1967 borders with territorial swaps, the reunification of 100,000 Palestinians with families in Israel, the division of Jerusalem and its holy sites and the end of conflict and claims. A multinational force would be set up in the Palestinian state, and Israel would maintain two early warning stations in the West Bank for 15 years.
While 55 per cent of Israeli Jews and 59 per cent of Palestinians oppose the deal, a minority of Israeli Jews and Palestinians (39 per cent) back it, as do 90 per cent of Israeli Arabs. Twenty-six per cent of Israeli Jews would be willing to change their mind if all Arab states were to agree to peace based on the Arab Peace Initiative, and 25 per cent of Palestinians would do the same contingent on Israel accepting the initiative, first proposed in 2002.
There is little trust between Israelis and Palestinians, the poll revealed. The vast majority of Palestinians (89 per cent) feel Israeli Jews are untrustworthy, and most Israeli Jews (68 per cent) feel that way about Palestinians. A minority of both Israelis and Palestinians (43 per cent) believe the other side wants peace, and large majorities on both sides (77 per cent of Israelis and 73 per cent of Palestinians) think the chance of an independent Palestinian state being established in the next five years is “very low.”
Half of Israeli Jews, 61 per cent of Israeli Arabs and 70 per cent of Palestinians agree: “Nothing can be done that’s good for both sides; whatever is good for one side is bad for the other side.”
Sixty-five per cent of Israelis say they fear Palestinians, while 54 per cent of Palestinians say they do not fear Israeli Jews, according to the poll. Israelis and Palestinians tend to perceive each other’s national motives to be much more extreme than they do their own side’s.
Most Israelis (64 per cent) and a large minority (43 per cent) of Palestinians support mutual recognition of Israeli and Palestinian national identities. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s insistence on such was an obstacle in the last round of American-lead Israeli-Palestinian peace talks in 2013-2014.
Many Palestinians see Israel’s democracy (68 per cent) and overall situation (49 per cent) in positive terms, and their situation as bad (29 per cent in the West Bank and 72 per cent in the Gaza Strip). Israelis agree in large numbers, viewing negatively the Palestinian democracy (77 per cent) and situation in the West Bank (43 per cent). Eight-three per cent of Israelis say the chances of a future Palestinian state establishing a better democracy are “slim” or “very slim.”
Among both Israelis and Palestinians, religious observance and political leaning are predictive of backing for the proposed peace deal, the poll found. Secular and left-wing Israeli Jews are more likely to be supportive, while more-religious and right-wing Israeli Jews are less likely to be. Just 16 per cent of Israeli settlers in the West Bank are on board, compared to 40 per cent of non-settlers.
Similarly, less-religious Palestinians are more supportive of the deal than are the more-religious, and there is a large difference in support between Fatah and Hamas voters – 57 per cent versus 25 per cent. Fatah is the political party of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Hamas is the Islamist terrorist group which governs the Gaza Strip.
Who should broker peace? A large plurality of Palestinians (44 per cent) prefer multilateral negotiations, while a similar number of Israeli Jews (40 per cent) prefer bilateral talks between the Israeli government and the Palestinians. Just 18 per cent on both sides favor a unilateral approach.
When asked to choose among four potential mediators of talks, an Arab forum – of Saudi Arabia Egypt and Jordan – was the most popular among both Israeli Jews and Palestinians (26 per cent and 22 per cent, respectively). All the other proposed options – the United States, the European Union and the United Nations – are acceptable to one side but unacceptable to the other.
Egypt and France are both pushing real-life initiatives to revive Israel-Palestinian peace talks. Palestinian leaders demand Israel freeze settlement construction and agree to negotiate based on the pre-1967 Green Line as preconditions for talks.
Most Palestinians (62 per cent) blame the Israelis for the failure of previous rounds of negotiations, while most Israeli Jews (52 per cent) blame the Palestinians. U.S. Special Envoy Martin Indyk, who oversaw the latest failed attempt, reportedly assigned most of the blame to Israel, while the State Department said no one is to blame but “both sides did things that were incredibly unhelpful.”