Given alternatives to a two-state solution, nearly 20 percent of Jewish Israelis said they would opt for a ‘definitive war,’ and nearly 40 percent of Palestinians said they support armed struggle.
By Yael Marom
For the first time in recent years, fewer than half of Jewish Israelis and Palestinians support a two-state solution, according to a public opinion poll published Thursday. One of the two populations maintained at least a small majority of support for two states in polls conducted over the past couple of years; the latest poll marked the first time both populations’ support dropped below 50 percent.
Only 46 percent of Jewish Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza support the two-state solution, according to the poll, conducted by Dr. Khalil Shikaki and Walid Ladadwa from the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR), along with Israeli pollster and +972 Magazine writer Dr. Dahlia Scheindlin and the Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Research (TSC). Departing from the trends of Jewish Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, 83 percent of Palestinian citizens of Israel still back a two-state solution.
Asked “What should happen next?” only 26 percent of Palestinians said the two sides need to reach a peace agreement, as opposed to 45 percent last June; 38 percent of Palestinians said they believe armed struggle is the way forward, as opposed to 21 percent in the previous poll. Nineteen percent of Israelis, meanwhile, said they would opt for a “definitive war” against the Palestinians. Last June, only 12 percent supported that option.
The poll was conducted in December 2017, mostly following Trump’s controversial announcement recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, among representative samples of 1,270 Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza and 900 Israelis.
The team partially attributed the declining support for two states to Trump’s Jerusalem declaration, which led to violent confrontations between Palestinians and Israeli security forces. Another significant factor, according to the pollsters, is a dramatic drop in people’s belief that a two-state solution is still viable. Nearly half of Israeli Jews and 60 percent of Palestinians believe settlements have expanded so much that the two-state solution is no longer feasible, according to the poll. Meanwhile, 48 percent of all Israelis believe the two-state solution is still viable, as opposed to 42 percent who do not.
Furthermore, approximately three-quarters of both Israeli Jews and Palestinian respondents said they think the chances of a Palestinian state emerging in the next five years is low or non-existent (75 percent of Palestinians and 73 percent of Israeli Jews)
The study is full of fascinating statistics, examining the positions of respondents vis-a-vis a number of solutions to the conflict — from a one-state solution to a confederation to apartheid and even population transfer. The most interesting part, however, is the way each side view themselves and the other.
Does the other side want peace? Among Palestinians, only 37 percent believe most Israelis want peace. Less than a third of Jewish Israelis (30 percent) think Palestinians want peace. Among Palestinian citizens of Israel, 85 percent believe Palestinians want peace, while 57 percent believe Israeli Jews want the same.
Can we trust them? Among Palestinians in the occupied territories a solid majority (89 percent) feels that Jewish Israelis cannot be trusted. Among Palestinian citizens of Israel, the situation is different: 61 percent believe that Jewish Israelis can be trusted, while 30 percent believe they cannot. When it comes to Jewish Israelis, three-quarters believe that Palestinians cannot be trusted, while only 19 percent said they trust Palestinians.
That lack of trust may be attributed to the widely-held worldview on both sides that the conflict is zero-sum. Fifty-one percent of Jewish Israelis subscribe to this view, as do 53 percent of Palestinian citizens of Israel and 72 percent of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.
When it comes to fear of the other, 46 percent of Palestinians said they are afraid of Israeli soldiers and armed settlers. Thirty-five percent said they are afraid of all Jews. There are significant differences between respondents in the West Bank and those in Gaza, however, with 53 percent of West Bank Palestinians saying they are afraid of soldiers and settlers, as opposed to only 36 percent in the Gaza Strip. It’s not hard to understand why: many residents of the West Bank are in daily contact with soldiers and settlers — Gazans are not.
Among Jewish Israelis, a majority of 57 percent said they are fearful of Palestinians, a decline from two polls conducted in the previous year, in which three-quarters of Israeli Jews said they fear Palestinians. Among settlers, it was 79 percent.
Within Israel, 51 percent of Jewish Israelis said they are afraid of Arab citizens, yet only 7 percent of Arab citizens say they are fearful of Israeli Jews; 90 percent say they do not fear them.
Yael Marom is Just Vision’s public engagement manager in Israel and a co-editor of Local Call, where a version of this article was originally published in Hebrew.