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Israelis, Palestinians are ready to accept international consensus

For the first time since 1967, both the Israeli public and the Palestinians are likely to accept an outline for a final-status agreement based on international law.

By Shmuel Lederman

Thousands of young Jewish boys wave Israeli flags as they celebrate Jerusalem Day at the Western Wall, May 17, 2015. (Flash90)

Thousands of young Jewish boys wave Israeli flags as they celebrate Jerusalem Day at the Western Wall, May 17, 2015. (Flash90)

A recent poll conducted by the The Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Research and the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion on an outline for a final-status agreement. The poll presented a “permanent agreement package” based on previous rounds of negotiation between Israelis and Palestinians, based on mutual recognition between Israel and Palestine, establishing a demilitarized Palestinian state within 1967 borders, annexing a number of settlement blocs to Israel in exchange for land swaps, and turning West Jerusalem into Israel’s capital and East Jerusalem into the capital of Palestine (with the Jewish Quarter and the Western Wall under Israeli sovereignty). Palestinian refugees will have the right to return to the Palestinian state; 100,000 of them will return to Israel as part of a family unification program, while the rest will be monetarily compensated.

Forty-eight percent of Israelis (41 percent of Jews and 88 percent of Arab citizens) and 42 percent of Palestinians in the occupied territories said they support this outline.

The poll also included “incentives” to understand what influences the views of both sides vis-a-vis a potential agreement. Thus, 40 percent of Jewish Israelis who opposed the agreement were willing to change their minds if the agreement also includes compensation for Jewish refugees from Arab countries. Thirty-four percent were willing to change their minds if Palestinians recognize the historic and religious ties that Jews have to the Lands of Israel, while a similar percentage was willing to change its mind if the the framework includes recognizing Israel as a Jewish state, and is part of a larger peace agreement with other Arab countries.

It is likely that at least some of these terms will be included in a final-status agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, such that the majority of the Jewish-Israeli public — and the majority of the Israeli public in general — is likely to support such a deal. These positions are similar to ones in previous polls vis-a-vis the Israeli public. They are extremely important for understanding the process that has taken place in Israeli society over the past two decades regarding the possibility of ending the Israeli occupation.

Many do not remember, but the Oslo Accords did not talk about the establishment of a Palestinian state, not to mention the return to 1967 borders. Rabin vehemently rejected these ideas until the day he died, and according to different estimations, assumed that a final-status agreement would include Palestinian autonomy in 50-70 percent of the occupied territories. Ehud Barak finished the Camp David Summit in 2000 with his well-known generous offer of returning 90 percent of the territories to the Palestinians. Only the Clinton Parameters in December 2000 and the Olmert proposal in 2008 reached the international consensus that has existed since 1967 on what the borders will look like. Most Israelis, then, are far more to the left than Rabin and Peres, or even Barak at the end of the Camp David Summit.

The Nobel Peace Prize laureates for 1994 in Oslo. (From right to left) Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat. October 12, 1994. (Photo by GPO/Ya’acov Sa’ar)

The Nobel Peace Prize laureates for 1994 in Oslo. (From right to left) Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat. October 12, 1994. (Photo by GPO/Ya’acov Sa’ar)

This fact, of course, does not sit well with the accepted narrative of a sharp right turn along the Israeli public in the last decades. This narrative isn’t false: the majority of the Jewish-Israeli public identifies with the political center or right, not with the left. The lack of trust by Israeli Jews toward Palestinians is very high, and nearly half of Israeli Jews support transferring Palestinians from Israel. In these respects, there is certainly much to say about a shift, even a sharp one, by the Israeli public. However when it comes to positions vis-a-vis an outline for a final-status agreement, the majority of the Israeli public now takes the position the extreme left took 20 years ago.

Even the Palestinian negotiators have gotten closer to Israel. In 1988, the Palestinian leadership accepted the international consensus on an agreement based on 1967 borders. During negotiations with Israel that have taken place in the years since, the Palestinian leadership has expressed its willingness to go beyond that consensus, accepting Israeli annexation of the settlement blocs in exchange for land swaps, annexing the Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem, and returning a symbolic number of Palestinian refugees into Israel.

The poll shows that on this issue, the Palestinian public is more or less a mirror image of the Israeli public: while Palestinians in the occupied territories do not believe in Israel’s willingness to reach an agreement, most of them accept the proposed outline, if it should include incentives such as recognizing their historic and religious ties to Palestine, rehabilitating refugees in the camps across the occupied territories, freedom of movement between countries, and the ability to work in Israel. As the pollsters summarize it: “On both sides, gestures of symbolic recognition of their historical attachment, identity and experience are among the more powerful motivator for changing attitudes in support of the package.”

Israeli soldiers clash with young stone-throwing Palestinians at the Qalandiya checkpoint near the West Bank city of Ramallah, October 9, 2009. Palestinian leaders warned of more street protests in Jerusalem, where clashes at the flashpoint al-Aqsa mosque two weeks ago heated up tensions in the disputed city. Photo by Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Israeli soldiers clash with young stone-throwing Palestinians at the Qalandiya checkpoint near the West Bank city of Ramallah, October 9, 2009. (photo by Nati Shohat/Flash90)

As opposed to the directives by the Israeli negotiators, from Rabin and Peres through Barak and until Olmert, the expectation that Palestinians make additional significant concessions beyond what has already been proposed in the agreement always reflected a blindness to the Palestinian ability to make concessions — rather than a sober analysis of reality — basing itself on the enormous difference in power (and American support) enjoyed by Israel . In this sense, Israel underwent a radical change over the past two decades.

For the first time since 1967, the majority of the Jewish Israeli public is likely to accept an agreement based in an international consensus and law, which Palestinians may also agree to as well. The successful demonization of the left and the Palestinians in Israel, an the apparent success of the right in entrenching the settlements in the occupied territories and the left’s tendency to not recognize these kinds of significant changes — none of these change this essential fact.

This article was first published in Hebrew by the Forum for Regional Thinking. Read it here.

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    1. i_like_ike52

      Some comments:
      (1) Note how the terms which are beloved of the “progressive” Israeli/Jewish Left are said to be “the international consensus”. The “Progressives” seem to feel that they speak for all of humanity. Not true, even everyone’s favorite, the supposed “Arab League Plan” doesn’t accept these terms.

      (2) Showing someone a package deal and then asking them to vote it up or down does not really measure how whether the terms are acceptable or not. It is like asking “are you in favor of world peace and the eradication of hunger, poverty and disease” without specifying exactly how you intend to accomplish this.

      (3) It should be noted that there is nowhere near majority support for this among the Palestinians. Don’t forget Arafat told Clinton at Camp David he would be assassinated if he accepted terms like this. In any event, even if there should be a majority of Palestinians in favor of an agreement along these lines, that would be meaningless, because Palestinian society does not work on a democratic/majority lines. It is the armed militias that set the tone. That is why there has not been a democratic election on the West Bank or Gaza for the last 11 years. If an agreement along these lines were publicly be accepted by a theoretical Palestinian leader, he would be denounced as a traitor for abandoning Palestinian interests and those who would be inclined to to along with it would be threatened with eternal hellfire damnation by the religious leadership.

      (4) Now, regarding the terms…they are totally unacceptable to the large majority of the Palestinian public. For instance, this “consensus” agreement calls for Israel maintaining sovereignity over the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem and the Western Wall. TOTALLY unacceptable to the Palestinians, and Olmert himself gave them up to the Palestinians in the guise of “international control” which would have majority Arab participation in the “international body” that would supposedly control these sites. I believe most of the Labor Party leadership also accepts that, so how can those proposing this plan backtrack on an existing Israeli concession.
      Regarding the refugees. one must get it out of their head that this is merely a “humanitarian” problem which could be solved by finding some place for them to go to live. WRONG. It is a political weapon. NO PALESTINIAN leader would ever, ever agree to absorbing them in the West Bank. They are viewed as aliens and a mass influx of them would overturn the existing political, social and economic structure of the West Bank, which would lead to a bloody civil war.The ONLY acceptable solution to any conceivable Palesitnian leader is that Israel MUST agree to an unlimited return of the refugees to within pre-67 Israel. Any Palestinian who would agree to compensation to go live somewhere else would, again, be threatened with eternal hellfire and damnation for agree to give up his share of the the Palestinian patrimony.
      The idea that an agreement along these lines would be acceptable to the majority of Palestinians and any conceivable leadership is based on the fallacy that the Palestinian struggle is dedicated to achieving “self-determination’ in an independent state. The “progressive” Left has been deluding itself for 50 years that giving them an independent state within some sort of claustraphobic, truncated Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza will satisfy them. It won’t.They want what they perceive as JUSTICE which means the eradication of Israel. That is the bottom line.

      Reply to Comment
      • Paranam Kid

        “Not acceptable to Palestinians”
        For the past 70 years it is not the Palestinians who have called the shots, but the israelis. And despite the upbeat message in this article, israel’s successive governments have moved ever farther to the right such that the world is now facing a zio-fascist apartheid state stealthily implementing a policy of incremental extermination of the Palestinians.

        Neither this israeli government nor the majority of israeli jews would accept this final-status agreement. If the israeli jews were really interested in an agreement, the Palestinians could quite easily be leaned upon to accept it – beggars can’t be choosers. But israel is disingenuous (to put it mildly) in its dealings with the Palestinians, as is its lapdog the US, which is also a dishonest peace broker.

        So your comments about what the Palestinians want or find acceptable are irrelevant & just reflect your Hasbara mindset & attitude.

        Reply to Comment
    2. Ben

      As I read this earlier I told myself “I predict it will be only minutes or a few hours at most before Ike52 shows up with his usual blast of negativity.” And sure enough. One wonders what Ike52 is so afraid of.
      The API called for an agreed upon solution. That can certainly include negotiation to arrive at the 100,000 number and monetary compensation package. The idea that the existing corrupt Palestinian kleptocracy can or will refuse a return to a Palestinian state in the context of a respectful final status accord is nonsense. What Arafat said he would be assassinated over is nothing like the package and the process Lederman is talking about. Barak’s “offer” was contemptuous. We have been over this. Poll numbers are elastic. The current numbers Lederman discusses is only a starting base. If the Palestinians perceive an actual, respectful Israeli negotiation that is something besides contemptuous, cynical obstacle-erecting and stalling for time to manage the conflict while grabbing ever more land, those poll numbers will prove highly elastic in a “progressive” direction Ike52 fears.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Ben

      ​”In their actions and words Netanyahu and his minions reveal not only their deep disdain for democracy, a sin shared by all of Israel’s right wing, but also demonstrate yet again that the only way to influence Israeli politics is through external pressure…
      The blowup with Germany showed that the world is beginning to tire of Israel, of its slick sanctimoniousness and slippery, olive oil-coated arguments, of its blindness to Palestinian suffering and indifference to their human rights, of its cynicism concerning apartheid in the territories…
      Now, 50 years after June 1967, we all live quite well with the settlement of the territories, since none of us is injured by it. No Israeli has yet been denied entry to any country for being an accomplice to the apartheid regime in the territories. As long as it is still possible to export goods from the territories, openly or otherwise, the protests in Europe’s capitals will be ineffective.
      Indeed, everyone recognizes that as long as Israelis are not affected personally, in their wallets and their comfort, as long as they can, for example, fly to London for a weekend on a whim, to see a good show or decent soccer, they will have no reason to get upset over the plans to annex the area between Jerusalem and Ma’aleh Adumim. But if a visit to Europe meant waiting a month for an expensive visa, perhaps we Israelis would begin to think in terms of benefit versus cost.
      The bottom line is that only when Israelis begin to feel they are no longer welcomed in Europe as equals, on account of the occupation and the settlement of occupied territory, will the occupation reach our agenda and become the main election issue. Only then….”
      read more: http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-1.787390

      Reply to Comment
      • Itshak Gordin Halevy

        Ben, If we have to wait one month to get a Visa, it will probably be the same for European travelers to visit the “Palestinian territories”, and perhaps even more. We all want peace but we cannot give up our historical, national and religious heritage. It is not a secret that the “Palestinian” people has been invented in the 60′. Both Arab leaders and historians admit it. Israel is now an important country and its international position is getting better every day (Unesco vote, visit of the German president today). Now there are at least 500-600’000 Jewish inhabitants in Judea and Samaria and they will never agree to leave as a majority of Israelis. The Israeli left is weaker every day. If you are a Jew, I suggest you to read our holy books instead of loosing your time and your energy in useless things.

        Reply to Comment
        • Bruce Gould

          This isn’t the spot for a history lesson, but if you read professional Israeli historians – Schlaim, Morris, Segev, Flapan, Kimmerling, Pappe, Shafir – you will discover that the whole “Israel is the homeland of the Jews” trope was invented in the 19th century, and it was invented partly as a way for colonial powers like Britain to get their hands on the Middle East. You will also discover that from the First Aliyah in the late 19th century on the immigrating Jews to Palestine had rather clear plans to get rid of the natives – they had no intentions of living in peace with the folks already there, they had plans to displace them.

          Reply to Comment
    4. i_like_ike52

      It is noteworthy how you never, ever refute any of the facts that I bring here. Simply taking a Pollyannaish attitude saying “let’s give peace a chance” isn’t going to go anywhere. That is what the Rabin-Peres-Barak Oslo “peace process” tried and failed miserably, convincing most Israelis that there is no chance for a compromise peace.
      What I find interesting is how the “progressives”, who always have the word “peace” on their lips, actually work against it. For instance, we all hear from these same “peace activists” that Arafat was right for turning down Barak’s offer at Camp David. Wasn’t “generous enough”. Well, what would have happened HAD Arafat accepted it? There would be an independent Palestinian state with a divided Jerusalem, the Temple Mount under Muslim rule and most significantly, there would be several thousand dead and wounded on both sides who would not have had to endure the suffering they went for. Yes, the Palestinian state would have been several square kilometers smaller than what this “international consensus” is demanding but was holding out for it worth the human price paid? For the ‘progressives’, apparently yes. Human life is not really important, peace is not really important, what is important in their eyes was the non-negotiable demands of the Palestinians.
      This is what your misname “Jewish Voice For Peace” is doing. Brant Rosen, their “rabbinical advisor” just wrote a piece demanding unconditional right of return of the Palestinian refugees. Does he and the JVP think Israel is going to agree to that? No, and Brant doesn’t care. He and they don’t care about peace and the don’t care about people. They are simply egging on the Palestinians to continually increase their demands by creating the mistaken impression that large numbers of Jews support their endless demands so all they have to do is keep up the pressure.

      The “progressives” are doing all the work for those of us who view the Jewish presence in Europe and ultimately the US to be unviable with Israel being the only safe destination for world Jewry.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        Your “facts” aren’t facts. Barak did not offer to “divide Jerusalem,” he offered to “give” the Palestinians the outlying suburb of Abu Dis, something they already had. And your “wasn’t ‘generous enough’” locution is a recycling of the Israeli conceit wherein Israel runs around saying “We were so generous! And even that wasn’t enough! Oy!” And stacks the deck by implying that any minimally fair and decent solution will involve Israel being “generous, so generous!” and the Palestinians will get a (“generous!”) gift bestowed upon them by Israel.

        As Gershon Baskin has summarized it: “The truth is that at Camp David Barak offered Arafat 89 percent of the West Bank with full Israeli control of Palestine’s external borders – the Palestinians called it a sovereign cage. Barak’s proposal included two east-west corridors under full Israeli control, cutting the West Bank into three cantons. Barak did not offer the Palestinians a capital in east Jerusalem, but in Abu Dis, which is outside of Jerusalem, and perhaps some control of the outlying Palestinian neighborhoods. Israel would continue to control all of the main Palestinian neighborhoods in east Jerusalem and the Old City. Barak demanded a place for Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount, which is what led directly to the failure of Camp David.”

        Oh, and the Palestinians’ demands are not “endless.” They are quite finite and have never changed much. So the idea that their demands are unreasonable and “endless” is nonsense. What is purposefully endless is the occupation and creeping annexation carried out by Israel. And the endless clauses Netanyahu tacks on to neutralize any threat of a 2 state solution. Ike52, no one who really knows what is going on is going to buy what you’re selling.

        Reply to Comment
      • Paranam Kid

        Israel is only a safe haven for those Jews who agree with the policies of the zio-fascist apartheid state. What’s more, contrary to its pretence, israel does NOT represnet world Jewry.

        Reply to Comment