A Washington Institute for Near East Policy poll of Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza which shows that a majority no longer favors a two-state solution is a stark warning of the consequences of failing to make progress through negotiations toward a two-state solution.
The poll contradicts the findings of other recent surveys which have shown that while support for a two-state solution among Palestinians is falling, a plurality still support it. Since public opinion research in the Palestinian community, and especially in Gaza, can be challenging, we would ideally want to see more polls authenticate this finding before drawing hard and fast conclusions.
Still the message from all recent polling is clear: faced with a continuing Israeli occupation that shows no signs of ending, a struggling economy and with the ever-visible sight of Israeli settlements continuously growing and expanding, it should be no surprise that many Palestinians have lost hope in the negotiations and in the two-state solution. That does not mean they intend to return to armed struggle.
Indeed, President Mahmoud Abbas deserves praise for his success in sticking to a policy of non-violence and keeping violence to a minimum even as the peace talks have collapsed. The recent kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers, though tragic and abhorrent, is an aberration, condemned by Abbas, whose security forces have been cooperating with the IDF to try to find the missing youths.
A bright point in the poll is that it confirmed that the Palestinian public is not turning toward large-scale violence. “Rather, on tactical questions of relations with Israel, respondents broadly supported a nonviolent approach,” writes pollster David Pollock.
Asked whether Hamas “should maintain a ceasefire with Israel in both Gaza and the West Bank,” 56 percent of West Bank respondents and a remarkable 70 percent of Gazans said yes. The poll also found no increase in support for Hamas in either the West Bank or Gaza.
In another sign of pragmatism among Palestinians, over 80 percent said they would “definitely” or “probably” want Israel to allow more Palestinians to work there. Around half said they would personally take “a good, high-paying job” inside Israel. A majority said they would also like Israeli firms to offer more jobs inside the West Bank and Gaza.
The overall message from this poll is clear: without a diplomatic process that offers hope for an end to the occupation and the establishment of an independent state, Palestinian backing for a two-state solution may continue to ebb. Indeed, after 47 years of occupation, we should be gratified that support for two states has held up as well as it has up to now.
Although Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts have failed for now, the United States cannot afford to walk away. To do so would be to allow opponents to a two-state solution in both Israel and the Palestinian Territory to gain the upper hand, offering negative agendas that can lead to nothing but endless conflict and strife.
J Street remains committed to pursuing a two-state solution and to promoting bold US leadership to eventually bring it about. We understand that success will also require bold Palestinian and Israeli leaders prepared to make tough decisions and take political risks. But we remain convinced that the two-state solution remains, and will always remain, the only just and viable way to end a conflict that has gone on far too long.