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Analysis

BICOM Briefing: Fifteen years after peace with Jordan, Israelis support Palestinian state

Key Points

  • Fifteen years after the signing of the Israel-Jordan peace treaty, Israelis remain supportive of a peaceful two-state solution with the Palestinians.
  • Polling shows that a consistent majority of Jewish Israelis have supported the establishment of a Palestinian state since the late 1990s.
  • Surveys also reveal that whilst Israelis are ready to accept a Palestinian state, they are sceptical about the intentions of the Palestinians and the possibility of reaching a deal.

Introduction

On 26 October 1994, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and King Hussein of Jordan signed an historic peace treaty, which was greeted with joy throughout Israel. It was hoped at the time that this treaty would serve as a precursor for peace across the region. As Dalia Rabin-Pelosoff – daughter of Yitzhak Rabin – recently noted, whilst these dreams were not realised, ‘the logic that led my father to pursue a path to a settlement is now more ingrained in the Israeli consensus than ever.’

The Israel-Jordan peace treaty was made possible by the Oslo process between Israel and the PLO to create gradually increasing Palestinian self-rule within Gaza and the West Bank. After the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993, acceptance of an independent Palestinian state as the end goal of this process grew in Israel. Whilst confidence in the peace process was badly damaged by the Second Intifada and remains low, polling consistently shows that a majority in Israel still favour, in principle, the creation of a Palestinian state as part of a final peace agreement.

Recent polling

  • A poll of 600 Israelis conducted by HaGal Hachadash (New Wave) for the Geneva Initiative, completed at the beginning of October 2009, found that 56% of Israelis support an agreement along the parameters of the Geneva Accords.
  • The War and Peace Index is a monthly poll funded by the Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Research and the Evens Programme in Mediation and Conflict Resolution of Tel Aviv University. In September 2009, this survey found that 64% of Israelis support the principle of ‘two states for two peoples.’
  • Meanwhile, a poll of 600 Israelis conducted in mid-August by the Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace and the Department of Communication and Journalism at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem found that 54% of Israelis support the creation of a demilitarised Palestinian state with strong security forces and a multinational force to ensure its safety and security. A survey by the same group at the end of May found that 52% of Israelis would support mutual recognition of Israel as the state of the Jewish people and of Palestine as the state of the Palestinian people, after the establishment of an independent Palestinian state and the settlement of all issues in dispute.

Longer term trends

  • An annual survey conducted by the Tel Aviv University-based Institute for National Security Studies (and before that the Jaffee Centre for Strategic Studies) has measured the readiness of Jewish Israelis to accept the establishment of a Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank. Their surveys have charted a steady increase in support from 21% in 1987 to cross the 50% threshold towards the end of the 1990s. After the collapse of the Oslo process and the breakout of the Second Intifada, majority support for the two-state solution did not collapse, but has continued to hover between 50% and 60%.
  • In the past few years, the survey has also begun asking about support for ‘two states for two peoples’, and has found that support for that formulation is around 10% higher than support for a ‘Palestinian state’. Even though the creation of a Palestinian state is logically the same as ‘two states for two peoples’, it clearly has negative connotations for some who nonetheless still accept a two-state formula.

Survey of Israel's Jewish Population

Survey of Israel’s Jewish population conducted by the National Security and Public Opinion Project of the Institute for National Security Studies, Tel Aviv University (No survey was conducted in 2008)

Scepticism about the partner
Consistent majority support for the creation of a Palestinian state among the Israeli public is tempered with scepticism about the possibility of reaching such an outcome in practice.

  • The Geneva Initiative survey, which found that 56% of Israelis support the outline of the Geneva Accords, found that only 35% of Israelis believe it is possible to reach such an accord.
  • Following Fatah’s conference in August 2009, 59% of Israelis told the Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace and the Department of Communication and Journalism at the Hebrew University that they do not believe Israel has a partner for peace negotiations.
  • In a poll of a representative sample of adult Jewish Israelis carried out by New Wave and published on 28 April 2009 in the Yisrael Hayom (Israel Today) newspaper, just 21% believed that Israel will reach a general peace agreement with the Palestinians within the next five years, with 70% believing they would not.

Further Reading

  • BICOM Spotlight: Briefings and analysis on 15 years of Israeli-Jordanian peace.
  • The BICOM website’s Opinion Polls section features a wealth of interesting polling from Israel and the region.