With just a couple of weeks left until the Israeli election, campaigns are in full swing but little effort is being spent on addressing how to best resolve the century-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The politicians, and even Israelis themselves, seem wary of wading into that debate. To gauge Israeli public opinion on one of this, arguably one of the most consequential questions facing the region, Haaretz conducted a poll ahead of election day and U.S. President Donald Trump's Middle East peace plan which is expected to be unveiled just after the vote.
The survey found that even proponents of the two-state solution who vote for Zionist center-left parties such as Labor, Meretz and Benny Gantz’s newly established Kahol Lavan don’t rule out at least partial annexation of the West Bank to Israel. In total, 42 percent of respondents support some form of annexation.
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The survey was conducted among 800 Israelis: 600 Jewish citizens were polled online and 100 non-Jewish citizens and 100 Jewish citizens were polled by phone. The margin of error is 3.5 percentage points.
The results also show that 20 percent of non-Jewish respondents, most of them Arab citizens of Israel, support annexation if their Palestinian neighbors are granted political rights. This is more than double the number of Jewish Israelis (9 percent) who back such a scenario.
The details of Trump’s peace plan remain a secret and are only expected to be made public after Israelis cast their ballots. Will the plan follow previous peace proposals and offer a two-state track? Trump himself said last year that two states was “more likely” than any other solution, but noted that “as long as they’re happy, I’m OK with one state, two states, whatever they want.”
The Haaretz survey presented two questions: What is the preferred solution among Israeli voters for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; and where do they stand on either a partial or full annexation of the West Bank, with or without granting political rights to the Palestinians who live there.
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Twenty-five years after the signing of the Oslo Accords, which promised two states for two peoples, only a third (34 percent) said they still back the two-state solution. Nineteen percent prefer a one-state solution (they were not asked to specify whether Palestinians would have political rights with such an option). Twenty-seven percent said they wanted something different altogether — one option, backed by 9 percent of respondents, was an Israeli-Palestinian confederation in which each state would govern itself while some matters would be overseen together. A fifth of respondents said they don’t know what the solution should be.
The idea of Israel partially or fully annexing the West Bank, originally touted only by the far-right, appears to be gaining broader acceptance on the center and left. Only 28 percent of those polled oppose any annexation. The number is 35 percent among non-Jewish respondents, although almost the same portion – 31 percent – of non-Jews polled support annexation in some form.
A total of 15 percent support annexing Area C (the parts of the West Bank that were placed under full Israeli control under the Oslo Accords). This is where the majority of Israel’s 400,000 settlers live, alongside an estimated 300,000 Palestinians.
Sixteen percent of those polled support annexing the entire West Bank without giving any political rights to the Palestinians who live there. Meanwhile, 11 percent support full annexation, but with the provision that Palestinians are given rights, i.e. the right to vote and run for office. Among non-Jewish respondents, support for this alternative rises to 20 percent.
Although right-wing parties are the ones who have been pushing for partial annexation, the survey indicates that even left-wing voters who back a two-state solution don’t rule out this scenario. For example, 80 percent of Labor voters who answered the poll support a two-state solution, but only 41 percent oppose any annexation of the West Bank; another 46 percent say they support annexing Area C. Among respondents who vote for Meretz, the most leftist Zionist party in Israel, 14 percent are in favor of annexing Area C. Another 14 percent support annexing the entire West Bank if Palestinians are granted political rights.
The survey found that voters’ positions vary somewhat from the stance of the parties they vote for. To ascertain to what degree a party represents its voter base on the issue of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Haaretz reached out to the parties and lawmakers to hear their positions.
Israel’s ruling party has not released a platform in recent election campaigns. But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been hugely successful in making the case to Israelis that the Palestinians are not trustworthy partners for peace.
As for its voters, according to the survey 30 percent of Likud voters would choose a one-state solution, while 20 percent back a two-state solution. Another 33 percent favor a different alternative and 17 percent don’t have a preferred solution.
“To ask whether the ‘solution’ is one or two states is like asking whether it is better to commit suicide by gun or strangulation,” said Gideon Sa’ar, a former Likud minister who holds the fifth spot on the party’s roster and is seen as a potential successor to Netanyahu. “My stance has been that both alternatives are dangerous to the future of Israel and are not solutions at all. Israel does not have to commit suicide!”
Noting the separation of Palestinian rule between Hamas in Gaza and the Palestinian Authority in parts of the West Bank, Sa’ar said he is in favor of “a regional solution on the basis of existing states,” such as linking the Palestinian-ruled parts of the West Bank to Jordan. “Until 1988, the Arab residents in Judea and Samaria [the West Bank] were Jordanian citizens, when King Hussein revoked their citizenship unilaterally and in violation of international law. There are many more ideas that might fit into such a framework,” he said.
However, many of Sa’ar’s Likud colleagues support annexation of the entire West Bank. “Between the Jordan [River] and the [Mediterranean] sea there is room for just one country — Israel,” said Yuli Edelstein, speaker of the outgoing Knesset and second on Likud’s roster.
“The first thing to do is to apply Israeli sovereignty over Judea and Samaria. This is the most just and practical move: Jewish settlement in Judea, Samaria and Gaza is a fait accompli that must be developed, expanded. We have not returned to the land to give up our right to live in the heart of our historic homeland,” he said.
As for where Likud supporters stand on annexation, the survey found that 39 percent oppose any annexation of the West Bank; 19 percent prefer full annexation without giving Palestinians political rights; 8 percent are for annexation but giving Palestinians those rights; and 12 percent support annexation of Area C alone. Twenty-three percent said they don’t know.
This political alliance between a new party formed by retired army chief Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid is working on appealing to as many swing voters as possible. It has what appears to be a purposefully blurry vision for resolving the conflict: “Preserving a horizon for a future deal.”
There is no explicit reference to a two-state solution or discussion of statehood of any kind for the Palestinians, other than the goal of “separation.” However, a campaign source said that “the concept of a two-state solution was alluded to in the platform.” Jewish settlements are clearly mentioned in a call to strengthen the large settlement blocs, which many believe will remain in Israeli hands under a two-state solution.
While the party’s official stance on a diplomatic solution to the conflict is vague at best, a majority of its voters — 57 percent — call for a two-state solution; only 5 percent support one state; another 10 percent favor a confederation; 6 percent seek something else; and 21 percent don’t know what they want.
According to the poll, the largest number of the party’s voters — 33 percent — don’t know if they support annexation, and nearly as many (31 percent) oppose it. Twenty-five percent support annexing Area C only. And very few agree with annexation of the West Bank as a whole, but of those who do, 6 percent are in favor if Palestinians are granted political rights while 5 percent support such a move without those rights.
The Labor Party brought Israel the concept of the two-state solution under Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who was assassinated in 1995 by a Jewish nationalist extremist for doing so. Its platform states that Israel’s security is paramount and that a two-state solution as essential in preserving Israel’s future as both a Jewish country and a democracy.
A Labor party spokesperson said separation is key to a future solution. Labor’s platform outlines three main steps to make this happen: the end of settlement building beyond the main blocs, voluntary evacuation of settlements outside those blocs, and a national referendum on the future of the Palestinian refugee camps in East Jerusalem.
An overwhelming majority of Labor voters – 80 percent – support two states. A confederation received minimal support, only 9 percent, and just four percent favor a one-state solution. Five percent want something else and 2 percent are undecided.
Despite the considerable support for two states, Labor voters don't rule out the partial annexation of the West Bank to Israel. While 41 percent say they oppose any annexation, more respondents – 46 percent – support annexing Area C. Four percent support annexing the entire West Bank with political rights for Palestinians, and 2 percent advocate annexation without granting them those rights. Another 7 percent don't have a preference.
The party is opposed to a two-state solution. Since he first ran for a Knesset seat as head of Habayit Hayehudi in 2013, Naftali Bennett has been trying to sell his plan for annexing Area C and expanding the settlements while offering Palestinians living there citizenship or residency.
This was one of his former party’s centerpieces and it continues to be so in the platform of Hayamin Hehadash, the new party he has formed ahead of this election. Party members have insisted the number of Palestinians who live in Area C is only 80,000, a figure dramatically lower than the 300,000 figure given by the United Nations and others.
According to the Haaretz survey, 30 percent of Hayamin Hehadash voters prefer a one-state solution and 15 percent back two states. Another 15 percent favor a confederation. The remaining 40 percent are evenly divided between wanting a different solution and not knowing what solution they would like to see.
While Bennett is pushing for a partial annexation of the West Bank, only 14 percent of the party’s voters call for the annexation of just Area C. Meanwhile, 22 percent support annexing the entire West Bank without political rights for Palestinians and 7 percent support that move if Palestinians are given political rights. Eleven percent oppose any annexation.
The most left-leaning of the Zionist parties, Meretz firmly supports two states in its platform and calls for all settlement construction to come to an immediate halt. It supports a future Palestinian state with its border drawn along the 1967 lines that existed before the Six-Day War.
Israel has no other moral choice than two states living side by side, says Meretz leader Tamar Zandberg.
In the survey, 79 percent of Meretz voters said they support two states, 7 percent are in favor of a confederation and 14 percent did not have a preferred solution. And while half of its voters reject any annexation, 14 percent support annexing Area C and another 14 percent back annexing all of the West Bank with political rights for Palestinians. Twenty-one percent are undecided.
The religious Zionist party running in the election as part of an alliance with National Union and Otzma Yehudit (known as the Union of Right-Wing Parties) firmly opposes a two-state solution. In response to a Haaretz query, a party representative wrote that it is against “any solution that includes the establishment of a Palestinian Arab state west of the Jordan River, and believes that the Land of Israel belongs to the Jewish people.”
The party also opposes any “evacuation or expulsion of Jews, destruction of settlements or dividing any of the Land of Israel to another people,” noting that “as is known, there is no such thing as Palestinian people.” The Union “strives to the application of Israeli sovereignty and Israeli law throughout the land of our country … until the Arab hope for the establishment of another state at the expense of the Jewish state in Israel is extinguished.”
Twenty-nine percent of the party’s voters surveyed support one state, only 7 percent are for two states and 11 percent say they want a confederation. The highest number — 46 percent — favor a different solution to the conflict and 7 percent don’t know what that solution would be.
When it comes to annexation, 43 percent would like to see the whole West Bank annexed without granting Palestinians political rights while 21 percent want annexation, but with those rights for Palestinians. Fourteen percent want to annex only Area C. Eleven percent are against annexation in any form and the same number of respondents said they don’t know what they prefer.
The hard-line party of former Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman features his signature plan: Land swaps with the Palestinians that would see a significant number of Arab citizens of Israel under Palestinian rule. Like Kahol Lavan and some other parties, Yisrael Beiteinu’s platform supports a role for some Arab countries in the negotiation process.
Yisrael Beitenu voters are evenly split among the solutions to the conflict presented in the poll: an even 20 percent each favor two states, one state, a confederation, a different option and remain undecided.
Thirty percent of voters support annexing Area C, while 10 percent support annexation of the West Bank as a whole but without political rights for Palestinians. Interestingly, the largest group — 40 percent — don’t know what the best solution might be.
United Torah Judaism
United Torah Judaism, an alliance of two Ashkenazi ultra-Orthodox parties, focuses on maintaining what is referred to as the status quo on matters of religion and state in Israel which allows religious educational institutions to receive state funding and largely blanket exemptions for their young people to serving in the army.
The party says that it "traditionally doesn’t take a stand in issues of foreign affairs and defense," noting that it "trusts the defense establishment and the prime minister." Ahead of a cabinet or Knesset vote, the party receives instructions from its leaders on how to vote. It said that in the coming election it prefers Netanyahu as prime minister and will align itself with the right-wing bloc's policy.
The survey found that half of UTJ voters polled do not know what the solution to the conflict should be, while 23 percent prefer something other than one or two states or a confederation. A scant 8 percent support two states and 19 percent support a one-state option.
On annexation, the largest number — 42 percent — again responded that they did not know what to do about it. Thirty-five percent said they supported full annexation with no political rights for Palestinians, 8 percent oppose annexation of any kind, another 8 percent favor annexing Area C and the remaining 8 percent want to annex the whole West Bank and grant Palestinians political rights.
The Sephardi ultra-Orthodox party and its lawmakers made history in 1993 when they abstained in the vote on the Oslo Accords, ensuring its approval. The party’s leader then and now, Arye Dery, has since spoken against the Oslo peace process.
More than a third of Shas voters (37 percent) say they prefer a one-state solution, while 16 percent support two states. Twenty-one percent favor a different solution, 16 percent are for a confederation and 11 percent don’t know what the solution should be.
The vast majority — 68 percent — support full annexation of the West Bank without giving the Palestinians political rights. About one fifth (21 percent) don’t know what they think about annexation, 5 percent oppose any annexation and another 5 percent support full annexation with political rights for Palestinians.
Originally a centrist party, Kulanu is now campaigning with the slogan “The Reasonable Right.” It is led by Moshe Kahlon, a former cabinet minister who supported a two-state solution in the past but has said that in the current political reality negotiations would be futile. “Economic ties, yes. Security coordination, yes. Humanitarian issues, yes. Giving up on the 1967 borders Kulanu will say ‘no,’” Kahlon said last month.
But this is not true for its voters. In the poll, more Kulanu voters support a two-state solution over one state: 36 percent to 23 percent. Another 32 percent don’t know what the solution should be, while 5 percent prefer a confederation and 5 percent want to see a different solution altogether.
Over half of Kulanu voters (55 percent) don’t know if they support annexation, and 27 percent are against annexing any part of the West Bank. Twenty percent don’t have a position on the subject, while 9 percent would like total annexation of the West Bank without any political rights for Palestinians. Only 5 percent are for annexation with granting Palestinians political rights and another 5 percent favor annexation of Area C only.
The platform of this small, newly formed party led by former Likud lawmaker Moshe Feiglin is fixated on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount. This is the place it envisions as the future seat of state power; it also believes in the primacy of Jews “from the river to the sea.”
The party told Haaretz that it supports a one-state solution to the conflict and presented a four-stage plan. The first would be annulling the Oslo Accords; second, offering “terrorists” to withdraw from the West Bank “without bloodshed”; third, having the Israeli army retake control of the Palestinian territories; and fourth, allowing Palestinian residents of the West Bank to choose one of three choices. Those choices are: emigrating with the help of the State of Israel, becoming permanent residents, or starting on a path to citizenship for those “interested to be loyal citizens and serve in the military” – a process that would include “a long and through examination.”
As for the party’s supporters, 45 percent responded that the one-state solution is optimal, while 20 percent back two states. Twenty-five percent are seeking a different solution and 10 percent support a confederation.
On annexation, 40 percent don’t know what they think of it, 20 percent support annexing Area C and 15 percent are against any annexation. Another 15 want to see the entire West Bank belong to Israel, with no political rights given to Palestinians.
Hadash, Israel’s communist party, has both Jewish and Arab voters, but traditionally their main base are Arab citizens. Hadash, which joined forces with Ahmed Tibi’s Ta’al party for this election, calls for a two-state solution. Its head Ayman Odeh said it is the “only way to forge peace and coexistence between Jews and Arabs in Israel and Palestine.”
He warned: “The crimes of the occupation seep into [Israel], infecting it with unceasing violence and destruction.” His colleague Aida Touma-Sliman noted that Hadash also demands an end to Israel’s decade-long siege on Gaza, a just solution to the Palestinian refugee question and East Jerusalem as the capital of the future Palestinian state.
Due to methodological limitations, the Haaretz survey did not break down the Arab respondents’ answers by party, but it did survey non-Jewish voters, most of them Arab citizens. It found that 34 percent support a two-state solution, 11 percent back one state, 5 percent prefer a confederation while 26 percent want to see a different solution altogether. A significant number — 24 percent — don’t know what the solution should be.
On annexation, 35 percent are against the idea outright but 20 percent support annexing the entire West Bank to Israel if that comes with political rights for Palestinians. A third — 34 percent — don’t know how they feel about it, while 4 percent want to see the annexation of Area C and 7 percent want full annexation but without granting Palestinians political rights.
Balad, an Arab party which is partnering with the United Arab List in this election, supports a two-state solution with East Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza. It also calls for a complete uprooting of Jewish settlements, a return to 1967 borders and Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights.
“Balad is fighting against the occupation and settlement and the racist separation fence and against the harassment and destruction suffered by our people living under the occupation, and opposes the imposition of all unilateral Israeli solutions,” a Balad spokeswoman stated.