Are Israelis ready for a confederated two-state solution?

A +972 poll puts the details of one such plan to the Israeli public, and finds that a majority supports the general approach.

[Illustrative photo by]
[Illustrative photo by]
The new year begins with speculation about the possibility of a change of government in Israel. But it is not at all clear that even a more centrist government can advance a two-state peace process with the Palestinians. Israelis and Palestinians are pessimistic about both the potential for successful negotiations or the feasibility of the two-state solution. On this point, the two publics, frankly, are more realistic than various policy circles.

In response, some people this past year began exploring other options, rather than succumb to the status quo. The initiatives center mostly around various confederation-style models, not as pipe dreams but as realistic alternatives.

One such effort by the Israel-Palestine Center for Creative Regional Initiatives (IPCRI) (as mentioned in +972’s initial poll report, full disclosure: I participate in it) has tried to break through some of the non-negotiable elements of Israeli and Palestinian two-state demands. IPCRI’s “Two States One Space,” is similar to another initiative called “Two States, One Land,” with Israelis and Palestinians who have been working together for about two years. Both visions involve two separate entities with distinct national identities, based on rough geographic definitions. There would be open borders, high cooperation, and phased but broad freedom of residence. The idea is to avoid uprooting most Israeli settlers, and accept Palestinian refugee return claims in a way that avoids trampling Jewish identity in Israel. Jerusalem is united but shared.

Read also: Israelis reject the status quo, fear int’l isolation

Our survey was the first to put these ideas to a quantitative test, with questions developed together with IPCRI. And after hearing all of the specific items in detail, a majority of Israelis – 56 percent – and even an absolute majority of Jews (51 percent) supported the general approach – precisely the same level that currently support the classic two-state formulations such as the Clinton and Geneva plans in Hebrew University surveys.

As we very often see in research about conflict resolution in this region, the whole – public support for the total framework package – is greater than the parts. Support for nearly all of the line items is lower than the 56 percent majority above. But the reactions to those items are surprising in themselves.

Below are the questions and results as they were asked in the survey. To get a thorough reading, we gave a summary of each core principle in a simple sentence and asked for reactions to each one separately. Then we ended by asking about the whole package.

Two separate states with open borders: 42 percent of Israelis accept this — nearly half. Among Jews, one-third accepted it, and over 80 percent of Arabs.

Jewish Israelis can stay in a Palestinian state as residents there and citizens of Israel, and Palestinians can reside in Israel [and] will have Palestinian citizenship. This attempt to break through the issue of settlers was acceptable to one-third of Israelis, including nearly 70 percent of Arabs but just one-quarter (27 percent) of Jews support it. Note that we didn’t specifically use the word “settlers” – which may have tilted Jewish results either way

Right of return for Jews and Palestinians to respective states – with residence subject to agreement of both states. Nearly half of all Israelis – 41 percent of Jews and 80 percent of Arabs – say this is acceptable. This is a striking finding when normally just putting terms “right of return” and “Palestinians” in the same sentence results in roughly 80 percent opposition against that item, by Jews.

Jerusalem – unified and undivided capital of both nations. Nearly half of the Israeli public (45 percent) accepts this and the finding is only slightly lower among Jews (40 percent).

Shared authorities, Israeli security control with Palestinian cooperation like today. This was the easiest for Israelis support – there are no emotions surrounding shared authorities and Israelis understand that the current security arrangements are great for them. Nearly 60 percent say this is acceptable, with only minor variation between Arabs and Jews.

Finally we asked, having heard all these items, do you generally support or oppose the package? Here the respondents were asked not just to accept the package but actively support or oppose it – and the majority (56 percent) support it.

The initiative does not exactly cut across the left-right divide in the Israeli public. The self-identified center and Left were more likely than the Right to support each initiative and the package. But significant portions of the Right were open to even the elements that are normally the most controversial.

Thus, one-third of self-defined right-wingers support the solution regarding right of return (half and three-quarters of the center and Left support it, respectively).

The Jerusalem concept was more polarizing, with just 18 percent of right-wingers expressing support for it – but higher portions among the center and Left (58 percent and 80 percent, respectively) who do.

But nearly one-third (roughly 30 percent) of right-wingers support the overall concept. Among the center the portion is quite remarkable: 69 percent, and on the left, nearly 90 percent – practically a consensus – support the full package.

Respondents made two firm statements through this data: first, when 90 percent of Israelis rejected the “status quo” option out of four possible directions for the conflict (see the full survey report), they meant it: most are willing to open their minds and take risks for the sake of change.

Second, Israelis are not interested in whether a resolution is labeled two states, separation, one state or shared sovereignty. They are willing to open their minds beyond the classic approaches — that are so entrenched in Washington and increasingly dismissed in Europe – to find ways out of the mutually destructive reality.

The survey was designed and analyzed by Dahlia Scheindlin, and data collection was conducted by New Wave Research. The research included a representative sample of 600 adults, Jews and Arabs, who were interviewed in Hebrew and in Arabic. The interviews were conducted through both Internet and phone, from December 11-17. The margin of error is +/-4%, higher for each sub-sample. See the raw data in Hebrew here.

Correction appended: Regarding the question about right of return, a previous version cited “80% opposition against Jews,” rather than opposition against  resolution of the right of return question, by Jews.

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