Israeli-Palestinian poll shows support for two-state solution at all-time low

‘Support for a nondemocratic regime has overtaken a two-state solution for the first time,’ says pollster Dr. Dahlia Scheindlin, while Dr. Khalil Shikaki says the joint survey shows ‘it’s becoming a tougher challenge for leaders to find public support for peace’

The Israeli and Palestinian flags, against a backdrop of the Dome of the Rock and an Israeli settlement in the West Bank

Steven Klein reports in Haaretz on 24 January 2023:

A joint Palestinian-Israeli survey has found that support for the two-state solution has dropped to its lowest level since polling on the matter began in the early 2000s.

The pollsters found that support for a Jewish-dominated state has surged among Israeli Jews. On the Palestinian side, the two-state solution still enjoys a plurality of support, but Gaza has replaced the West Bank as the area with the more moderate views.

“Support for a non-democratic regime has overtaken a two-state solution for the first time,” noted pollster Dr. Dahlia Scheindlin, speaking at a press conference in Jerusalem on Tuesday.

The survey, called the Palestinian-Israeli Pulse, was conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research in Ramallah and the International Program in Conflict Resolution and Mediation at Tel Aviv University. (Full disclosure: The writer teaches in the latter program.)

The survey found that support for a two-state solution sank precipitously from September 2020. Palestinians prefer a two-state solution over a Palestinian-dominated state 33-30 percent, while Israeli Jews prefer a Jewish-dominated state over the two-state solution 37-34 percent. Less than a quarter of each side supports one democratic state.  Israeli Arabs were more positive on all issues compared to the other two groups, with 60 percent still supporting a two-state solution.

“Peace in the region is more remote than ever,” Scheindlin said. “The last time there was a majority on both sides [in favor of the two-state solution] was June 2017.”

Support for a two-state solution among Israeli Jews was positively correlated with age and negatively correlated with both right-wing views and religiosity. Support climbs from 20 percent among the 18-34 age group to 47 percent for Israeli Jews 55 and older. In contrast, it drops from an overwhelming 83 percent among self-identified left-wingers to just 16 percent on the right, and from 57 percent among secular Jews to a mere 8 percent among ultra-Orthodox Jews, or Haredim.

The pollsters detected several proximate factors that have seemingly contributed to the hardening of attitudes on both sides, particularly over the past four years. They include the significant rise in armed confrontations and killings of Palestinians in the West Bank; damage caused during the Trump era; Arab normalization; and the rise of the far right in the Israeli election last November.

Underlying attitudes explored in the survey explain some of the psychology behind the hardened attitudes, said Dr. Nimrod Rosler of Tel Aviv University. “Both sides see themselves overwhelmingly – 84 percent – as the exclusive victim, which leads each side to support violent solutions,” he observed. He described this justification as a sense of “moral entitlement.”

Rosler said 90 percent of Palestinians and 63 percent of Israeli Jews believe their victimhood status entitles them to do whatever is necessary to survive. Mirroring each other, 93 percent on each side see themselves as the rightful owners of the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. They also negate the other’s claims to the land (93 percent of Palestinians and 68 percent of Israeli Jews).

Rosler said the sense of exclusive ownership is “correlated with low support for reconciliation and low support for joint solutions.”

More dangerously, these attitudes seem to give each side permission to prefer violent solutions. The poll found that Palestinian support for armed struggle over a peace agreement has strengthened to 40 percent, versus 31 percent. On the Jewish side, the gap between a peace deal and fighting a decisive war and destroying the Palestinians’ military capacity has shrunk from 41-19 percent to 30-26 percent, the poll found.

This preference is also backed by a mutual overestimation of the other side’s extremism. Two-thirds of Israeli Jews believe Palestinians primarily want to conquer Israel. The poll actually showed that a majority of 51 percent of Palestinians aspired to regain some or all territories occupied by Israel in 1967, while 37 percent aspired to conquer Israel. On the other side, 65 percent of Palestinians feared Israelis want to extend Israel’s borders and expel the Arabs. The poll revealed that 18 percent of Israeli Jews aspire to expel the Arabs.

Neither do the sides feel they are paying significant consequences for their actions. Only 40 percent of Israeli Jews believe the occupation harms Israel, while only 39 percent of Palestinians believe that armed attacks against Israel harm the Palestinians.

Perhaps more surprising, just 36 percent of Israeli Jews believe the occupation harms or greatly harms Palestinians, while 30 percent believe it doesn’t harm Palestinians at all.

Rosler noted: “All of these reasons can explain to us how come both parties are paying costs for the continuation of the occupation or violence rather than pursuing policies to obtain peace.”

Both sides are equally pessimistic: 61 percent of Palestinians and 65 percent of Israeli Jews believe a new intifada is on the horizon. Only 30 percent of Israeli Jews and 13 percent of Palestinians are even willing to participate in a workshop that brings together both sides.

Looking forward to how a solution might emerge, Dr. Khalil Shikaki, director of the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, discussed a peace package based on the Clinton Parameters (a Palestinian state comprising between 94 and 96 percent of the West Bank and the entire Gaza Strip).

He said the survey found that while a majority of Israeli Jews supported some elements like mutual recognition, a democratic Palestine/Israel, greater Arab peace and a multinational force, there was no Palestinian majority for any aspects.

“This survey shows it’s becoming a tougher challenge for leaders to find public support for peace,” Shikaki said. “Previous surveys showed a lot more hope. This showed a glimmer of hope, but also a hardening of attitudes – particularly in the West Bank.”

Scheindlin offered words of caution for those who think the other side only understands violence. “If we assumed violence would push the other side” to submission, “we see that’s not the case,” she said. “Lower casualties haven’t made Israelis feel safer or less victimized, and violence against Palestinians hasn’t translated into” them giving up. “From that, we can deduce that if there were suddenly new violence against Israeli civilians, attitudes would only harden. The only way things will change will be from a top-down driven narrative.”

She said reviving the peace process requires elected leaders in Israel “firmly making the case,” and someone on the Palestinian side “who enjoys public legitimacy making that case.”

The survey was conducted last month and involved face-to-face interviews with 1,270 Palestinians and internet interviews with 500 Israeli Jews inside the Green Line, 200 settlers and 200 Israeli Arabs. The margin of error was +/- 3 percent.

The survey was funded by the Netherlands Representative Office in Ramallah and the Representative Office of Japan to Palestine through UNDP/PAPP.

This article is reproduced in its entirety


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