The raging controversy over President Barack Obama’s speech last week, in which he explicitly called for a Palestinian state to be created based on the 1967 borders, with land swaps, caught me personally by surprise. The notion of a Palestinian state has always essentially been conceptualized around the 1967 occupied territories, and the peace negotiations of the last two decades have essentially focused on this. Mr. Obama himself clarified this boldly and precisely in his speech at AIPAC today.
Whether or not American Presidents have said it, the Israeli public could not have been surprised – as the notion has been on the table very explicitly over the last decade. Further, numerous polls have tested various formulations. Below is a selection of data – chosen at random, from readily available sources, over the last decade.
*For readers’ convenience, I have left out the detailed survey information, but all the links provide the full surveys and all the relevant methodological information.
March 2002: Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Research (Tel Aviv University) Peace Index
“In light of the severe security situation, there are two possible extreme solutions: transfer of the residents of the territories, or withdrawal to the 1967 lines and settlement evacuation. Which would you choose?”
• Transfer: 29%
• Withdrawal to 1967: 35%
• Neither serves Israel’s interests: 29%
July 2002: Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Research (Tel Aviv University) Peace Index
“If in the framework of this agreement, the Palestinians give up on the right of return, would you support or oppose a return to the 1967 borders, with adjustments to allow the major settlement blocs to remain under Israeli control?
• Support: 48%
• Oppose: 54%
(percentages add up to more than 100% due to rounding)
November 2002: Search for Common Ground survey
• 51% “Favor a Palestinian State based on ‘67 borders, if Palestinians commit to stop using violence”
• 21% oppose this, only because they do not believe Palestinians will stop using violence, not because they believe Israel should maintain its hold on the territories.
February 2003: Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Research (Tel Aviv University) Peace Index
“Would you accept the establishment of an independent, viable Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with certain agreed border adjustments?
• Accept: 58%
• Reject: 37% (Jewish and Arab sample: 61% accept, 34% reject)
May 2003: Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Research (Tel Aviv University) Peace Index
Recently, the press reported a peace plan between Israel and the Palestinians called the “Road Map.” The main points of the plan are: in the first stage, the Palestinians will elect a new leadership and a new leader, Abu Mazen, which has been done. The Palestinian leadership will declare unilaterally Israel’s right to exist, and will undertake all means to stop the terror and violence against Israel, including stopping incitement against it. At the same time, Israel will withdraw from the areas it re-entered following the Intifada, dismantle all the illegal strongholds, freeze settlement building and will stop military activities against the Palestinians.
In the second phase, at the start of 2004, a Palestinian state will be established with temporary borders. During this same year, Israel and the Palestinians will conduct negotiations toward a final peace accord that will include reaching a solution on the main points of disagreement, such as the status of Jerusalem, the right of return for Palestinian refugees and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state that will live in peace alongside Israel, based on the 1967 borders, with some adjustments.
• 59% support (the whole plan)
• 39% oppose
(61% support, 36% oppose, from the whole population)
December 2003: Truman Institute for the Advancement of Peace. Joint Israel Palestinian Poll (JIPP)
(Note: This ongoing survey, undertaken among Israelis and Palestinians several times a year, began asking the following formulation and has asked it regularly up to recent polls. It does not mention the explicit term “1967 borders with adjustments,” but the wording amounts to the same concept. The question was asked repeatedly over the years, and the responses are listed here.)
The Palestinian state will be established in the entirety of Judea Samaria and the Gaza strip territories, except for several large blocks of settlements which will be annexed to Israel and will not exceed 3% of the size of West Bank. Israel will evacuate all other settlements. The Palestinians will receive in return territory of similar size along the Gaza strip. Do you agree or disagree with this item?”
• 45% agree
• 52% disagree
December 2005 (same question, Truman Institute JIPP survey)
• 50% support
• 44% oppose
December 2007 (same question, Truman Institute JIPP survey)
• 44% support
• 54% oppose
June 2008: Truman Institute JIPP
“And of all negotiation tracks to reach a peace settlement Israel is currently involved in, which, in your opinion, is the most promising track with the highest chances to reach a settlement?”
- Permanent settlement with Palestinian state within 1967 bordrs: 26%
- Peace, normalization with Syria in return for Golan Heights: 15%
- Comprehensive agreement, Saudi plan, full return of occupied territories: 12%
- No agreement at all: 34%
A research study commissioned by One Voice, and developed by peace research scholar Dr. Colin Irwin was conducted by Dahaf Research.
“Israel should withdraw to the 1967 border with adjustment through agreement of equivalent exchange of land”
• 52% of all Israelis responded that this is “essential,” “desirable,” “acceptable” or tolerable”
• 39% considered it unacceptable.
June 2010: Truman Institute (JIPP) – immediately following the flotilla. The same question was asked as above (“The Palestinian state will be established in the entirety of Judea Samaria and the Gaza strip territories, except for several large blocks of settlements…”). Even at this tense time, the Jewish population split evenly: 44% support this, and 45% are against it.
2007-2010: Geneva Initiative Surveys:
The research conducted by the Geneva Initiative shows opposition to withdrawal to 1967 borders with adjustments during the last few years. In the Geneva research from 2007-2010, just over half the Jewish sample consistently opposes the withdrawal, and roughly 30% support it. Yet, when their surveys ask about the entire package, precisely the opposite trend appears: roughly 54% supports the whole package, and less than 1/3 (about 30%) are opposed in its last published survey, from December 2010.
In sum, the Jewish Israeli public over the last few years tends to be divided regarding levels of support for the explicit notion of returning to the 67 borders, with land swaps/adjustments. However, when presented as part of a larger package of an agreement rather than as an isolated concept, Israelis mostly support such packages with clear majorities. The Jewish public became generally more hard-line after the mid-2000s, following the unilateral settlement dismantling in Gaza, the subsequent electoral rise of the Hamas and its takeover of Gaza in 2007 (see this comprehensive INSS report for evidence of the shift in attitudes following this phase).
The bottom line is that the notion of a Palestinian state based on the1967 borders, with adjustments, has never been shown to drag down support for a comprehensive agreement – were the leaders of this region serious enough to reach one.