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Polls: Two-state solution was a casualty, even before the war

Turns out most Israelis support the establishment of a Palestinian state – until they read the fine print.

There is a natural obsession with short-term, immediate details of the situation in Israel and Palestine: where is the siren or rocket or bomb? How many bodies are piling up in Gaza? Israelis’ memory at present seems to go back only a few weeks, to the murder of three teens that they believe set off this cycle.

But for Palestinians, there was life before the Israeli kids were murdered, and it wasn’t good. Many are seething under a reality of no prospects, no citizenship or statehood, rage at their leaders, rage at their occupiers. What both sides share was a realistic lack of hope for the recent negotiations for long-term resolution.

While leaders again proved them right, public support for the two-state solution may become the long-term victim of the accelerated cycles of aggression.

Mahmoud Abbas and Shimon Peres in Jordan, May 26, 2013 (Mark Neiman / GPO)

Mahmoud Abbas and Shimon Peres in Jordan, May 26, 2013 (Mark Neiman / GPO)

Several new surveys paint a dismal picture for this paradigm.

A survey of Palestinians from June by the right-leaning Washington Institute for Near East Policy found that more than twice as many respondents now support “reclaiming all of historic Palestine,” than those who choose “end the occupation and reach a two state solution.” In response to +972’s query, the Institute says this is a new finding compared to similar (but not identical) questions asked in the past, when support for a two state-solution typically ranged between 40-55 percent. Here is the data (n= 1200 Palestinians in West Bank and Gaza, margin of error, +/-3%):

Please state your view about the main Palestinian goal for the next five years

– The goal should be to work toward reclaiming all of historic Palestine from the river to the sea: 60%
– The goal should be to end the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and achieve a two state solution: 27%
– The goal should be to work for a one state solution in all of the land, in which Arabs and Jews will have equal rights in one country, from the river to the sea: 10%

Two further questions on this topic yielded similar data: one asked how people would perceive a negotiated two-state solution (accept that as end of the conflict, or continue seeking to liberate all of historic Palestine) and what people believe the leadership’s actual goal in such a case would be (to end the conflict, or liberate historic Palestine in phases). Again, roughly twice as many chose the “all of Palestine” option.

I usually advise against trusting a single survey for an unusual finding. The key is to see if other surveys show similar trends. They do. A Pew Research poll from April and May 2014 (with a sizable sample of 1000 each – Palestinians and Israelis) provides similar insight.

In this comparative poll, when asked “Do you think a way can be found for Israel and an independent Palestinian state to co-exist peacefully or not?”

– 63 percent of Palestinians said “no.”
– Israelis were split in half (45% “no” to 40% “yes”)
– Jordanians, who have greatest interest in seeing such an arrangement, expressed skepticism: 39 percent said “no,” 29 percent said “it depends”  and 26 percent said “yes”- making Jordan among the most optimistic of the seven nations tested.

There is a certain irony here: According to the survey, Palestinians may retain a maximalist dream, but Israel is the one that is actually physically expanding its sovereignty over the territory under question.

        Read: The only two-state solution that might work

At first glance, a recent Haaretz poll showed different results. Sixty percent of Israelis said they support an agreement with the establishment of a Palestinian state (from a representative sample of 500 – which means that probably fewer than 100 Arabs were polled – and error of +/-4.4%).

“If the Prime Minister reached an agreement in the framework of which a Palestinian state would be established alongside Israel would you support or not support the agreement?”

– Support: 60%
– Do not support: 32% (Haaretz’s article uses this wording, rather than “oppose”)

Nir Hasson of Haaretz writes that compared to similar (not identical) polls in December 2012 (just weeks after the last Gaza war), the current data represents a drop from around two-thirds support then.

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However, when simple details are given about the two-state agreement, support crumbles. The basic outline in the subsequent question mirrors the Camp David talks from 14 years ago, and many doubt whether this formula is even applicable anymore.

Consider that in the framework of an agreement, most settlers are annexed to Israel [sic – ds], Jerusalem will be divided, refugees won’t return to Israel and there will be a strict security arrangement, would you support this agreement?”

– Yes: 35%
– No: 58%

As a pollster, the contrast between the idea of a two-state agreement and the lack of support for the detailed version is dramatic enough to warrant methodological suspicion. When my polls show results like that, I automatically check for technical errors or glitches in data processing.

But supporting data from other polls and questions usually signal that there is no technical error, only the contradictions of human nature. Notably, there is little contradiction given findings from two polls nearly one year ago that are remarkably similar, which I wrote about then: when the Prime Minister presents a general agreement, 55 percent supported it; when the details are given (without mentioning the Prime Minister), precisely the same portion accept or reject it (38% to 56%) as this year.

Further, in the current poll, when asked if people would prefer to evacuate settlements for a peace agreement, or give up on an agreement to preserve settlements, Israelis are evenly split (45% to 43% respectively – a statistical tie). The 43 percent who resist dismantling any settlements, since the question didn’t specify, are probably mostly right-wing. It’s not hard to imagine another 15 percent drawn from the center or even self-described left who are in no mood for this arrangement at present.

There are other ominous findings: the majority of Israelis supports unequal rights for Palestinians:

If Israel were to annex territories, do you think it should give Palestinians living there full rights, including the right to vote in Knesset, or partial rights, without Knesset vote?

– Full: 31%
– Partial: 56%

So when shown the details, the majority of Israelis are opposed to a two-state agreement and support denying civil rights to Palestinians. This finding may be mitigated by the fact that 62 percent do not support Naftali Bennett’s plan of annexing Area C. But that itself is mitigated by the fact that Israel is already doing so.

It is worth noting that all three surveys were conducted just prior to the kidnapping of the Israeli teens and the current escalation. But there is little reason to think the events will have a strong impact on these specific questions, given long term trends in public opinion, and on the ground. But if they do, that impact is unlikely to favor the classic two-state formula.

After Kerry, only BDS may save the two-state solution
COMIC: Why even god can’t reach a two-state solution
The only two-state solution that might work

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    1. shachalnur

      Two State solution was a red herring from the beginning.

      We’re moving towards a Three-State/One Country (Israel/Palestine/Jordan) solution,including Right of Return and right to settle wherever you want in all three States,while keeping your Israeli-/Palestinian-/Jordanese citizenship and Parlementary voting rights according to the State you originally belong to.

      But you’re gonna have to buy your land ,not grab it and ethnically cleanse the locals.

      Much better than the current situation where every Israeli leases “his” land from Rothschild for 49 or 99 years,and will never own it.

      No internal borders,common basic Constitution guaranteeing religious freedom and equality for all citizens of this 3 State Country.


      Besides a giant bloodbath, continuous wars,and suicide for all,it’s the only logical solution that will hold longterm,and will give everybody the opportunity to do his thing,including for Jews to live everywhere they want in Eretz Israel Shlema,as a majority in Israel with ’48 borders or as a minority in Palestine and Jordan,though.

      All Jews that are afraid of this solution ,can go live outside the Middle East or hide in a bunker in Herzliya Pituach,and choke on their fear and hate.

      For this solution to play out,first the US, GB,AIPAC,ADL and B’nai Brith will have to be taken out of the equation.

      In a while ceasefiretalks mediated by Abbas will start ,followed by peacetalks without US and European involvement.

      US/GB will try taking revenge for this gambit via Syria through Isis,but they will ultimately fail,since Russia and Iran will support this solution.

      Enjoy the show,it will be the best one in the last two centuries!

      Reply to Comment
      • Adam Dayton

        “Logical solution???” LOL!!!! Ethnic conflicts are not ended by forcing everyone to live together and sing kumbahya. In fact, what you propose is the most illogical solution. How are things working out in Iraq right now? Are the Kurds, Shias and Sunnis all loving one another as children of the Universe? How about Lebanon, which has a political crisis every other month.

        Your suggestion has absolutely no basis in reality and reflects a deep ignorance of man’s tribalistic nature and ethnic conflict.

        Just to show you how illogical your suggestion is, let’s look at two statements you’ve made:

        1) For this solution to play out,first the US, GB,AIPAC,ADL and B’nai Brith will have to be taken out of the equation.

        You might as well say that we should take gravity out of the equation as well. You’ll have a better chance of making gravity disappear than making AIPAC disappear.

        2) All Jews that are afraid of this solution ,can go live outside the Middle East or hide in a bunker in Herzliya Pituach,and choke on their fear and hate.

        Why should we do that? We have the most advanced weapons in the world. No need to hide.

        Reply to Comment
        • shachalnur

          Tried to answer ,but it went into cyberspace,as happens quite a lot lately.

          Not gonna try to write long answer again.

          Let’s wait and see.

          Reply to Comment
    2. Duke University Law Professor Donald Horowitz pointed out a number of years ago that the Palestinians and the Israelis were looking at essentially two different two-state solutions. The Palestinians supported a two-state solution provided that it included a right of return for refugees, the Israelis supported such a solution provided that it excluded such a right. The peace process industry has not really been honest when it claims that majorities among both peoples support a two-state solution. More work is required before the two peoples will both agree on a similar solution.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Mark

      It’s time to tell the world that the Arabs in Haifa, Acre, Nazareth, Jaffa, Lod, Galilee, Negev, Jerusalem, Ramallah and Gaza – are one and the same Palestinian people.
      Why they do not have the same Palestinian citizenship ? Especially now, when creating one more Arab state.

      Don’t force Israeli citizenship to Arabs !
      To survive in the Middle East as Jewish state, Israel needs a new tenet :
      Two Nations – Two Citizenships !

      Reply to Comment
    4. Mark

      A Two Citizenships Solution vs. a Jewish-Arab State.
      Palestinian citizenship to the Arabs, Israeli citizenship to the Jews.

      There is no regional arrangement without changing the citizenship of Israeli Arabs.
      Israeli Arabs obtained Israeli citizenship illegally and against international law.
      Immediately after the establishment of a new Arab state west of the Jordan River (or return Jordanian control ), the Arabs of Haifa, Nazareth, Akko, Galilee, Negev, Jerusalem etc. must become citizens of their new state.

      Meanwhile, Israel has become an incubator for Arab people.
      If the Jews do not want to continue to live in a binational state, and within a generation become a minority in Israel, they must prepare for a referendum (as in Scotland) based on the UN resolution to divide Palestine for Jews and Arabs.
      It’s possible to separate from the Arabs by the law, as the Czechs and the Slovaks.
      Two Nations – Two States – Two Citizenships !

      Reply to Comment