Israelis and Palestinians remain overwhelmingly in favour of a two-state solution as the best way to end their decades-long conflict, according to a poll published on Wednesday.
The findings provide something of a counterpoint to the gloomy outlook for Israeli-Palestinian peace talks at the political level – though with important caveats. While the survey makes clear that a majority of Palestinians and Israelis accept the idea of two states for two people in principle, they remain sharply divided over the details of a diplomatic solution to the conflict.
The poll was released a day after Barack Obama, the US president, announced he would hold talks next month with regional leaders in a bid to revive the stalled Middle East peace process. The US administration has made clear that it wants to see the conflict resolved by creating an independent Palestinian state – a position that is at variance with that of the new Israeli government.
Mr Obama has also voiced support for the Saudi-led 2002 Arab peace initiative, which promises peace and recognition to Israel in exchange for an Israeli withdrawal from the territories it conquered in 1967. Israeli officials are deeply sceptical of the plan, not least because it also calls for a ”just settlement” of the Palestinian refugee problem – a demand which Israel fears could include the return of Palestinian families who fled or were driven from their homes inside Israel in 1948.
The new Israeli government, led by Benjamin Netanyahu, has so far refused to endorse the two-state solution, in a marked departure from both the international consensus and the policy of the previous Israeli leadership.
On the Palestinian side, progress towards a peace accord is hampered by the continuing divide between Fatah and Hamas, the rival political groups, and the split between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
The survey, released by OneVoice, a pro-peace group, and conducted by two leading polling groups in Israel and Palestine, finds support for the two-state solution remains strong despite the recent political setbacks.
Among Israelis, 78 per cent of respondents said a two-state solution is either ”essential”, ”desirable”, ”acceptable” or ”tolerable”. Only 21 per cent called it ”unacceptable”.
On the Palestinian side, 74 per cent said they back or could tolerate a two-state solution, with 24 per cent saying it is ”unacceptable”. However, an even greater number of Palestinian respondents said they want a Palestinian state to cover all of historic Palestine, meaning present-day Israel as well as the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Further troubling news for peace advocates came from respondents’ views on the details of a final settlement. On the issue of Jerusalem, for example, 91 per cent of Palestinians said it is essential that the entire city form part of an independent Palestinian state, including the western part - which is internationally recognised as part of Israel.
On the Israeli side, 45 per cent said that all of Jerusalem – including the occupied eastern part of the city – must remain part of Israel.
Both Palestinians and Israelis overwhelmingly rejected a division of the city, either along the lines of 1967 border, or by Jewish and Arab neighbourhoods.
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