Most Israelis Against Exploiting 'Friendlier' White House to Expand Settlements, Poll Shows

Israelis think it unwise to move ahead with settlement construction or West Bank annexation plans, Israel Democracy Institute poll shows.

An Israeli soldier stands next to a bus stop covered with a poster from the Israeli branch of the Trump campaign, near the West Bank Jewish Settlement of Ariel October 6, 2016.
Baz Ratner, Reuters

Most Israelis do not want their government to exploit the goodwill shown by the new U.S. administration to expand settlement construction in the West Bank, a poll published on Tuesday has found.

The monthly “Peace Index,” published by the Jerusalem-based Israel Democracy Institute, found that 54.6 percent of Israelis, who were questioned in January, opposed such a move, while 40.4 percent favored it. Among Jewish Israelis, 50 percent said they thought it unwise to take advantage of a “friendlier” White House to build more housing in the settlements. Among Arab Israelis, a much higher percent, 77.9 percent, was opposed.

The United States has long viewed settlement construction as an impediment to the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. In a statement issued last week, U.S. President Donald Trump said that although he did not view settlements as an obstacle to peace, they “may not be helpful” either. Trump’s candidate for the next U.S. ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, is a staunch supporter of the settler movement. 

The poll found that an even larger majority of Israelis, 57.6 percent, opposes annexation of the West Bank, despite growing calls for such a move among right-wing politicians. Barely a third of those questioned said they were in favor of annexation. Among Jewish Israelis, 53.4 percent were opposed, while among Arab Israelis, 78.7 percent were.

The findings are based on responses from a representative sample of 600 Israelis.

Respondents were also asked what status West Bank Palestinians should receive if Israel ultimately annexes the area. Less than a third, 30.7 percent, were in favor of granting Palestinians full citizenship in such a scenario.

A clear majority of those questioned, 62.9 percent, said they favored restarting peace negotiations with the Palestinians, but an even larger share, 70.2 percent, were pessimistic that such talks would yield much in the coming years.