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The Israel Democracy Institute and the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research recently released apoll finding that 58% of Israelis and 51% of Palestinians support a two-state solution. While some outlets have framed these results as reflective of a general decline for support for a two-state solution, given the current regional dynamics, they’re actually quite hopeful.
Pollsters have long observed that Israeli and Palestinian support for a two-state solution fluctuates based on whether negotiations are likely or ongoing. Support generally rises when there are negotiations and declines when there are not.
Since the collapse of the Kerry initiative and war in Gaza, the diplomatic horizon has looked bleak. Israel has elected its most right-wing government in history, has continued to entrench the occupation and continues to expand settlements in areas that will likely become part of a Palestinian state. Meanwhile, Israel experienced a spike in Palestinian terror last summer and sporadic attacks continue. None of this paints a particularly hopeful picture.
And yet, despite violence, a staggering lack of political leadership and the feeling that the prospect for negotiations is remote, a majority of Israelis and Palestinians continue to support a two-state solution.
Tamar Hermann, the IDI researcher who studied Israeli attitudes, found some hope in the survey. She was interviewed by The Forward:
But the fact that a small majority of Israelis still favor it is notable, [Hermann] said, given that the Israeli media downplays support for a negotiated settlement with the Palestinians.
“I would say that the situation is less dismal than I thought,” Hermann said. “It is dismal but not as gloomy as it is being portrayed by the media and the decision makers and the leaders on both sides.”
The poll had some other interesting findings. It showed that just 25% of Israelis and 35% of Palestinians support a one-state solution. The poll also showed that 26% of Israeli Jews and 42% of Arabs who did not support the peace agreement initially would change their minds if the agreement led to Arab states would normalizing their ties with Israel.
The poll also found that Israelis and Palestinians both believed that the other side does not support a peaceful settlement: 49% of Palestinians believe that most Jews oppose a two-state solution and 44% of Israelis believe most Palestinians oppose it. Even here, Hermann offered some hope:
But Hermann found a silver lining in this finding, noting that it’s surprising that these figures are not much higher. Many Israelis and Palestinians do understand that the other side wants peace, in spite of their leaders’ best efforts to convince them otherwise.
“The demonization of the other side did not yet succeed,” she said.
In that sense, this poll illustrates the resilience of the two-state solution. Despite increasing opposition from both the far-right and the far-left and the absence of a political horizon, majorities of both peoples continue to support it. The two-state solution is the only way to ensure Israel’s future as the democratic homeland of the Jewish people and to guarantee Palestinians the dignity and sovereignty that is their right. It’s clear that both peoples still recognize that, too.
Benjy Cannon is the 2015-2016 Mikva Fellow at J Street. He’s on Twitter at @benjycannon