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Are Israelis ready for a confederated two-state solution?

A +972 poll puts the details of one such plan to the Israeli public, and finds that a majority supports the general approach.

[Illustrative photo by Shutterstock.com]

[Illustrative photo by Shutterstock.com]

The new year begins with speculation about the possibility of a change of government in Israel. But it is not at all clear that even a more centrist government can advance a two-state peace process with the Palestinians. Israelis and Palestinians are pessimistic about both the potential for successful negotiations or the feasibility of the two-state solution. On this point, the two publics, frankly, are more realistic than various policy circles.

In response, some people this past year began exploring other options, rather than succumb to the status quo. The initiatives center mostly around various confederation-style models, not as pipe dreams but as realistic alternatives.

One such effort by the Israel-Palestine Center for Creative Regional Initiatives (IPCRI) (as mentioned in +972’s initial poll report, full disclosure: I participate in it) has tried to break through some of the non-negotiable elements of Israeli and Palestinian two-state demands. IPCRI’s “Two States One Space,” is similar to another initiative called “Two States, One Land,” with Israelis and Palestinians who have been working together for about two years. Both visions involve two separate entities with distinct national identities, based on rough geographic definitions. There would be open borders, high cooperation, and phased but broad freedom of residence. The idea is to avoid uprooting most Israeli settlers, and accept Palestinian refugee return claims in a way that avoids trampling Jewish identity in Israel. Jerusalem is united but shared.

Read also: Israelis reject the status quo, fear int’l isolation

Our survey was the first to put these ideas to a quantitative test, with questions developed together with IPCRI. And after hearing all of the specific items in detail, a majority of Israelis – 56 percent – and even an absolute majority of Jews (51 percent) supported the general approach – precisely the same level that currently support the classic two-state formulations such as the Clinton and Geneva plans in Hebrew University surveys.

As we very often see in research about conflict resolution in this region, the whole – public support for the total framework package – is greater than the parts. Support for nearly all of the line items is lower than the 56 percent majority above. But the reactions to those items are surprising in themselves.

Below are the questions and results as they were asked in the survey. To get a thorough reading, we gave a summary of each core principle in a simple sentence and asked for reactions to each one separately. Then we ended by asking about the whole package.

Two separate states with open borders: 42 percent of Israelis accept this — nearly half. Among Jews, one-third accepted it, and over 80 percent of Arabs.

Jewish Israelis can stay in a Palestinian state as residents there and citizens of Israel, and Palestinians can reside in Israel [and] will have Palestinian citizenship. This attempt to break through the issue of settlers was acceptable to one-third of Israelis, including nearly 70 percent of Arabs but just one-quarter (27 percent) of Jews support it. Note that we didn’t specifically use the word “settlers” – which may have tilted Jewish results either way

Right of return for Jews and Palestinians to respective states – with residence subject to agreement of both states. Nearly half of all Israelis – 41 percent of Jews and 80 percent of Arabs – say this is acceptable. This is a striking finding when normally just putting terms “right of return” and “Palestinians” in the same sentence results in roughly 80 percent opposition against that item, by Jews.

Jerusalem – unified and undivided capital of both nations. Nearly half of the Israeli public (45 percent) accepts this and the finding is only slightly lower among Jews (40 percent).

Shared authorities, Israeli security control with Palestinian cooperation like today. This was the easiest for Israelis support – there are no emotions surrounding shared authorities and Israelis understand that the current security arrangements are great for them. Nearly 60 percent say this is acceptable, with only minor variation between Arabs and Jews.

Finally we asked, having heard all these items, do you generally support or oppose the package? Here the respondents were asked not just to accept the package but actively support or oppose it – and the majority (56 percent) support it.

The initiative does not exactly cut across the left-right divide in the Israeli public. The self-identified center and Left were more likely than the Right to support each initiative and the package. But significant portions of the Right were open to even the elements that are normally the most controversial.

Thus, one-third of self-defined right-wingers support the solution regarding right of return (half and three-quarters of the center and Left support it, respectively).

The Jerusalem concept was more polarizing, with just 18 percent of right-wingers expressing support for it – but higher portions among the center and Left (58 percent and 80 percent, respectively) who do.

But nearly one-third (roughly 30 percent) of right-wingers support the overall concept. Among the center the portion is quite remarkable: 69 percent, and on the left, nearly 90 percent – practically a consensus – support the full package.

Respondents made two firm statements through this data: first, when 90 percent of Israelis rejected the “status quo” option out of four possible directions for the conflict (see the full survey report), they meant it: most are willing to open their minds and take risks for the sake of change.

Second, Israelis are not interested in whether a resolution is labeled two states, separation, one state or shared sovereignty. They are willing to open their minds beyond the classic approaches — that are so entrenched in Washington and increasingly dismissed in Europe – to find ways out of the mutually destructive reality.

The survey was designed and analyzed by Dahlia Scheindlin, and data collection was conducted by New Wave Research. The research included a representative sample of 600 adults, Jews and Arabs, who were interviewed in Hebrew and in Arabic. The interviews were conducted through both Internet and phone, from December 11-17. The margin of error is +/-4%, higher for each sub-sample. See the raw data in Hebrew here.

Correction appended: Regarding the question about right of return, a previous version cited “80% opposition against Jews,” rather than opposition against  resolution of the right of return question, by Jews.

Read also:

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    1. It is bad that Israelis demolish one or two buildings in their own settlements. Shared use, or rent payable towards Palestinian infrastrucure would be better.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Mikesailor

      Antony: The Israelis are definitely not going to “share use” of any settlement buildings. That has to be a truly dumb idea because the settlers want the land exclusively for their own. Why do you think they attack Palestinians, uproot olive trees, burn mosques, cars and homes? Because they want to coexist on the land? What are you smoking? As for paying rent; if you notice the Israelis continue to claim the land isn’t “occupied” when it suits the israelis, then admit to military occupation also when it suits the Jews. They STEAL at the point of a gun, they don’t ask and they certainly never pay compensation. It is a curious mindset of “What’s mine is mine and what’s yours is mine also”. They are thieves, nothing less. For even if, as is their argument, no political entity “owns” the land, it certainly isn’t theirs. As for Dalia: Without more specifics. this polling is useless. Polls have shown repeatedly the Israeli public agreeing to all sorts of things…until specifics are brought into the mix. When push comes to shove, scratch the most “liberal” Zionist and you find the secret racist Zionist underneath. It is the Zionist ideology, nothing less, that not only allows but commands the Jewish treatment of non-Jews. A confederation? And who decides what courts will try who? Who commands the airspace, trade rights or electromagnetic spectrum? Who gets to travel and where? And finally, who gets to decisde land ownership rights and who wull get to enforce such rulings against illegal Jewish actions? Guess?

      Reply to Comment
      • Lewis

        I would argue it goes beyond Zionist ideology, in the same way that the US punished Nelson Mandela for being both a “terrorist” and a “Communist.” The US wanted to protect its interests and he was in the way. If Palestine had been conquered Italians, the US would demand recognition of the Italian right to exist, while supporting the same wars and propping up the same Gulf dictatorships.

        Reply to Comment
    3. Pedro X

      Anyone who has read IPCRI’s “Two States One Space” framework on a Confederated Israeli-Palestinian state will realize that this is just another plan to deconstruct Israel as it now exists. The framework reads like a Marxist manifesto for the deconstruction of Israel and its replacement with an entirely different entity and identity. In this framework Israel will be subject to foreign intervention if it does not make the proper concessions to the Palestinians.

      The plan revolves around decentralization of power from the federal Israeli government to local authorities. It talks about the replacement of existing power structures such as a strong central Israeli government with bottom up power control from persons at a local or grass roots level. the framework calls for a redrawing of Israeli municipal boundaries and a rewriting of Israeli exercise of democracy. This plan calls for an unspecified transfer of powers which would grant local authorities unprecedented rights to taxation, budgetary decisions, expenditures and policy. This transfer of power would grant the Arab triangle and Bedouin in the Negev essentially autonomy in the state of Israel. This framework seeks to fragment Israeli identity and unity.

      The Confederated system would not result in a full blown confederated state with the Palestinians but what IPCRI calls a “”thin” confederation between two sovereign states with greater autonomy of local governance.” Confederation would be limited to executive commissions having decision making authority in a limited number of areas such as trade, international development, border control, immigration and environmental resource management. Each side would either appoint or elect its own representatives to these executive commissions. Israeli decisions would be subject to foreign intervention and oversight, while the Palestinians would not. This proposal would infringe on Israel’s sovereignty to decide what is in its best interests. The majority of government powers would devolve on local authorities.

      These limited commissions are expected to build bridges to further cooperation and later a full confederated state in the distant future.

      One might mention that the Oslo Accords tried such an interim system of trust building commissions and the Palestinians failed to continue with the mechanisms for cooperation with 26 commissions set up for the very purpose that the limited confederation system suggests.

      The confederation plan calls for open borders and the full implementation of the Palestinian claim of a right of return to Israel. IPCRI’s framework does not give a single framework but several for achieving the full right of return. One talks of quotas and phased returns with Arabs receiving free housing and affirmative action protection in the economy. Most plans call for massive land ownership changes with Orly Noy calling for redistribution of land in Israel (but not in Palestinian territories). Others talk about expropriation of individual Israeli land by Palestinians, in some cases delayed until the current tenant dies or his children move out when the Palestinians then move in and kick out the Israeli (Jew and Arab). These plans call for the elimination of the Israeli Land Administration Authority and Israel’s current land holding system.

      The framework says the purpose of cooperation in the confederated state will be “primarily aimed at eliminating the social and economic gaps between the two states and within each society.” When you delve deeper into the framework proposal this is achieved by changing Israel’s governmental system, the nature of its capitalistic economy and massive expropriation of Israeli land in favor of the Palestinian Arabs.

      The proposals for security are risible. Israel is given responsibility for handling external threats but the Palestinians are given sole control of borders at Rafah and the Allenby Bridge. In essence this proposal says Hamas would control the Rafah border and the PA the Jordan border. Under this proposal Israel would not be allowed a presence in Palestinian territory and would not be allowed to defend or guard Israeli communities in Judea or Samaria, except in cases of emergencies.

      The framework does not require Hamas or other terrorist factions to disarm. It does not require Palestinians to have democratic governments or institutions or elections. It does not require Palestinians to set up independent courts or give human rights to its citizens. The expectation in the framework is that Israeli society will be torn apart and fundamentally changed to accommodate and economically support the Palestinians in the Confederated state.

      Reply to Comment
      • Phil Fumble

        Why can’t the Palistinians come up,with a solution that does not rely upon taking what the Isralis have built? Let them design their own institutions, investments, and plans for building a society instead of entitlement.

        Reply to Comment
        • John Cook

          Yeah; that’s the ticket! But let’s also restrict them from acquiring land, accessing outside funding and utilities….etc.

          Reply to Comment
    4. Richard Witty

      There is no possibility that it will somehow magically be adopted as a “solution”.

      However, for those that believe that it is a good outcome, they should organize, articulate their reasoning, develop a strategy, sequence it out, argue for the components of it publicly.

      My sense of the way that a federated two-state will emerge is first by establishing moderate non-nationalist parties in Israel and Palestine, a liberal democratic party.

      If its policies are pragmatic and appealing, it will attract a significant number, get knesset representation and break down the ethnic screen of credibility and coalition participation.

      A party like Hadash has no chance of influencing much, more for its communist roots and association than for its integration. Its recent announcement of joining a united ARAB bloc, betrays its integrated character, sadly.

      Avram Burg picked the wrong horse, or maybe just very wrong timing.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Ben Zakkai

      Every time I read about some elaborate and complicated plan for an Israeli-Palestinian confederation form of government, which is invariably designed to avoid the challenge of evacuating Israeli settlers from the land they’ve stolen as a necessary precondition to actually creating a territorially contiguous Palestinian state worthy of the name, it reminds me of the scene in “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” where Dennis the filth-covered radical peasant is explaining to King Arthur that “We’re an anarcho-syndicalist commune, we take it in turns to act as a sort of executive officer for the week, but all the decisions of that officer have to be ratified at a special biweekly meeting, by a simple majority in the case of purely internal affairs but by a two-thirds majority in the case of more – ” until Arthur finally explodes and says, “Be quiet! I order you to be quiet!” – because of course Arthur is king by divine right and therefore doesn’t have to put up with any of Dennis’ sophomoric anarcho-syndicalist bullshit. Let’s just assume for a hallucinatory moment that the Government of Israel, despite all its immense financial, diplomatic, military and technological advantages vis-à-vis the Palestinians, actually agrees to replace itself with, or subject itself to, some kind of confederation government. Won’t that new government, with all its complex, overlapping and obfuscatory rules, institutions and jurisdictions, immediately become Jewish Israel’s new mechanism for continuing to keep the Palestinians down and screwing them until the end of time? Folks, the solution is very simple: Two states for two peoples. Put pressure on the State of Israel until it’s ready to do the following: pull the IDF out of the Occupied Territories, tell the settlers they don’t get any compensation or relocation assistance unless they evacuate within a designated short period, and if any of them stay beyond the end of said period, then leave them to the tender mercies of the Palestinians they’ve been making miserable for the past half century.

      Reply to Comment
      • Kolumn4

        This is not about evacuating settlers. This proposal is actually more about trying to satisfy the Palestinian demand for flooding Israel with Arabs while weakening Israel and gradually working towards eliminating the Jewish State. It is a proposal for a transition period in preparation for replacing two awkward quasi-states with one Arab state.

        The basic problem with these kinds of proposals is that regardless of how it starts and regardless of their initial status, if several million Palestinian Arabs permanently move into central Israel there is no possibility of sustaining a situation where they will be excluded from the decision making process on a local, regional and national level in Israel. And whatever viable proposals arise from dealing with that issue will inevitably result in a weakened or eliminated Jewish State. So, given this knowledge no Israeli government would ever accept any document that explicitly obligated it to any such course of action.

        Now, the bright side of these proposals is that were they to function as the basis of an agreement then with minor changes Israel will almost certainly ensure that the outcome will closely mirror the current status quo in all but name. This is why I find these proposals entertaining. They sound like they offer the Arabs a chance to take over Israel and hence cause the Arabs to want to agree to them but in practice they are more likely to permanently undermine such a dream.

        Reply to Comment
        • Brian

          You confirm Ben Z’s point precisely. Just pull out. It’s never been tried!!

          Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn4

            Why on god’s green earth would we do something so retarded as to allow the creation of a terror state within qassam range of my house? It has been tried. It failed miserably. There isn’t a sanction in the world which would cause any sane human being to compromise their basic security.

            Reply to Comment
          • Brian

            Nope! Never been tried!

            Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn4

            South Lebanon. Gaza. Tried. Failed.

            Reply to Comment
          • Brian

            Never. Been. Tried.

            Reply to Comment
          • Phil Fumble

            Brian, as the Iron Sheik would say, “you are gay and faggot”

            Reply to Comment
          • Brian

            Ok. You had to wonder what new persona ‘Sluggo’ would adopt after he got banned for this kind of thing and had half his posts taken down. Now we know. ‘Phil Fumble’ has distinguished himself so far by his inveterate shallowness. That’s all we knew. Now we know: The Slug has slithered up. You knew it wouldn’t be too long before he just couldn’t contain himself.

            Reply to Comment
          • RICK

            Newsflash; If you are living in Israel you are living in a “terrorist state”. That state is currently terrorizing millions of non-Jews in a typical colonial settler state worse than S. Africa at the height of Apartheid. Secondly, if you are living in Israel as a Jew you are constantly in a fearful state, afraid of your non-Jewish neighbors, of Iran getting the bomb, of being demographically absorbed by the indigenous majority, and afraid for your kids if they’re in the army, etc.

            Ironically and in complete contradiction to Zionist theory and propaganda, Jews living in the U.S. are just the opposite. It’s not an anti-Semitic country and most social problems don’t affect the middle class that dramatically. Yes, the U.S. is terrorizing millions as well, but it is a much larger country and far away from the people it is oppressing. But as the son of a famous Israeli general says, “the main function of the Israeli army is the suppression of the indigenous people, the Palestinians, and terrorizing them is a daily routine.

            Reply to Comment
    6. Peter

      Third option:
      “…normally just putting terms “right of return” and “Palestinians” in the same sentence results in roughly 80 percent opposition against Jews.”
      Should that be ‘..opposition FROM Jews.”?

      Reply to Comment
      • Yes, thanks for pointing that out. An editing typo, and it has now been corrected. Thanks again.

        Reply to Comment
        • Peter

          Oops. Your surname on the headline (and here) is
          “Scheindlin” whereas, in your reply it is “Scheindlir”.
          Proofing must be hard as hell with multiple languages AND scripts! (I’d like to hear your name correctly in my head)

          Reply to Comment
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