Two-thirds of Israelis Still Back Two-state Solution, J Street Poll Finds

Even among voters from the right-wing Likud and Kulanu parties, most prefer separation to annexation.

Israelis at a Yitzhak Rabin memorial ceremony in Tel Aviv's Rabin Square, November 5, 2016.
Israelis at a Yitzhak Rabin memorial ceremony in Tel Aviv's Rabin Square, November 5, 2016. Moti Milrod

Despite widespread perceptions that the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is all but doomed and that growing numbers of Israelis support annexation of the West Bank, a new survey shows that a strong majority in the country still favor the creation of an independent Palestinian state. 

The survey, conducted earlier this month and just after outgoing U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry outlined his vision for a solution to the longstanding conflict, was commissioned by J Street, the U.S.-based pro-Israel, anti-occupation organization. It was carried out by Smith Consulting, a respected Israeli pollster. 

The survey found that more than two-thirds of Israelis – 68 percent – support a two-state solution. The survey was carried out among a representative sample of 500 Israelis, both Jews and Arabs. 

In a survey commissioned by J Street two years ago, 62 percent of Israelis said they favored a two-state solution, indicating that if anything, the idea is gaining support.

Among Jewish Israelis, 66 percent said they favored a two-state solution. Jewish-Israeli respondents were asked to indicate what party they had voted for in the 2015 national elections. The results show that an overwhelming majority of those who voted for parties associated with the political center and even the center-right favor the creation of a Palestinian state.

Eighty-three percent of those who voted for the Kulanu party, which is part of the ruling coalition, favor a two-state solution. So do 81 percent of those who voted for Yesh Atid, which currently sits in opposition. (According to separate polls, published in recent weeks, Yesh Atid would win more seats than any other party were elections held today.) Even among those who voted for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud, a majority of 63 percent said they favored dividing the land. 

Only among those who voted for religious parties was there a clear majority in favor of a one-state solution. Sixty-one percent of those who voted for the national religious Habayit Hayehudi party said they favored the one-state option, as did 59 percent of those who voted for the ultra-Orthodox parties. 

But considering that Habayit Hayehudi is the party most closely affiliated with the settlement movement, it is noteworthy that almost two out of every five Jewish-Israelis who voted for this right-wing party favor a two-state solution. 

Among those who voted for the two main Zionist parties on the center-left and left – the Zionist Union (previously Labor) and Meretz – more than 90 percent said they supported the creation of an independent Palestinian state.

At the opening of an international conference in Paris on Sunday, French Foreign Minister Jean Marc Ayrault said that there is no other solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict than the two-state solution. At the weekly Israeli cabinet meeting this morning, Netanyahu called the conference “futile.” 

President-elect Donald Trump has distanced himself from the two-state solution, which has long been promoted by the United States. 

Another question in the J Street survey tried to gauge support among Israelis for the permanent solution outlined by Kerry in his recent address, without making specific mention of it. Respondents were asked if they would support a permanent solution based on the following principles: returning to Israel’s 1967 borders with some land swaps, declaring Jerusalem the shared capital of both the Jewish and Palestinian states, and addressing the grievances of Palestinian refugees mainly through compensation payments.  Here again, a majority – though not as large – favored compromise. Fifty-eight percent of Israelis said they would vote in favor of such a solution in a referendum. Among Jewish-Israelis, a majority of 55 percent said they would.

Last week, the Israel Democracy Institute published rather different findings in its monthly “Peace Index.”  The respondents were asked whether they agreed with Kerry that without a two-solution, Israel could not remain both Jewish and democratic. Only 35 percent said they agreed, while a majority of 54 percent said they did not agree. Yet, when asked whether they agreed that unilateral annexation of the West Bank would be a “disaster” (as recently described by Likud MK Tzachi Hanegbi), more than half (50.5 percent) said they agreed, while barely one-third said they disagreed. Similarly, a clear majority of 63 percent said they supported conducting peace negotiations with the Palestinians, while 30 percent were opposed.