Increasing Number of Americans Prefer One-state Solution to Israel-Palestinian Conflict, U.S. Study Finds

A new poll surveying over 2,300 Americans shows growing support for giving Palestinians full and equal rights, even if that curtails Israel's Jewish character

Protesters hold signs outside the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) policy conference in Washington, D.C., U.S., March 21, 2016.
Drew Angerer/Bloomberg

WASHINGTON – There is a growing level of support among Americans for a “one-state solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as long as such a solution ensures equal rights and full citizenship to Palestinians, a new poll released on Tuesday suggests.

In the context of what a one-state solution would look like, a vast majority of the poll’s respondents said if they had to choose between Israel remaining a Jewish state or a democratic one, they would rather see it remain democratic.

The poll, conducted by the University of Maryland, included interviews with over 2,300 Americans, who were asked about different issues related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Besides showing increased support for giving Palestinians full and equal rights, even if that means the end of Israel’s Jewish character, it also showed a similar trend to many previous polls when it comes to how young Americans view Israel. Younger respondents were overwhelmingly less supportive of Israel than those over 35.

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One of the key questions in the poll read: “As you may know, the United States has been acting as a mediator between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority, with the aim of reaching an agreement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Whether or not these efforts succeed, there is a question about what kind of future for Israel and the Palestinians the U.S. should be supporting over the long term, and many analysts feel that time is running out for some options. Here are four possible approaches that are frequently discussed. Please select the one you think the U.S. should support.”

The respondents were then presented with four options in a randomized order. Some 36 percent chose a two-state solution with “Israel and Palestine living side by side” based on the pre-1967 borders.

Meanwhile, 35 percent of Americans chose the one-state solution, described as “a single democratic state in which both Jews and Arabs are full and equal citizens, covering all of what is now Israel and the Palestinian Territories.”

It should be noted that the one-state solution option was supported by 33 percent of Republicans and 33 percent of Democrats. At the same time, 48 percent of Democrats and 24 percent of Republicans said they preferred the two-state solution.

In recent years, the Israeli right has been calling for annexation of the West Bank, without giving full and equal citizenship to the Palestinians living in that area. According to the poll, only 8 percent of Americans support such an idea. Even among Republican respondents to the poll, only 14 percent expressed support for this idea.

An additional 11 percent of the respondents said they support the current situation, in which Israel hasn’t annexed the West Bank but also hasn’t given citizenship and equal rights to the Palestinians living in those territories.

Next, the respondents were asked: “Which of the following statements is closer to your view if a two-state solution is not an option?” Some 64 percent of respondents supported the option that read: “I favor Israel’s democracy more than its Jewishness. I support a single democratic state in which Arabs and Jews are equal even if that means Israel would no longer be a politically Jewish state.”

Only 26 percent supported the other statement, which expressed support for Israeli annexation without giving Palestinians full and equal rights. In other words, almost two-thirds of Americans prefer a solution that would end Israel’s Jewish majority in the event that a two-state solution is impossible to achieve, and only a quarter would prefer a solution that turns Israel into an undemocratic country where millions of people are not allowed civil and voting rights.

Prof. Shibley Telhami, who oversees the polling project on American attitudes toward the Middle East at Maryland University, wrote in Foreign Policy magazine on Tuesday that the poll’s results show that many Americans agree with the positions expressed two weeks ago by the writer Marc Lamont Hill, who called to create one state with equal citizenship in place of the current situation. Hill was fired by CNN for his use of the phrase “a free Palestine from the river to the sea,” which is historically affiliated with Palestinian armed and terror groups.

Telhami wrote that the new poll “indicates that many aspects of Hill’s views are widely shared among the American public – and that these views are not reflective of anti-Semitic attitudes, or even of hostility toward Israel as such. On these issues, there is a gap between the mainstream media and U.S. politicians on the one hand, and the American public on the other.”

Telhami added: “When one considers that many Israelis and Palestinians, as well as many Middle East experts, already believe that a two-state solution is no longer possible, especially given the large expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, it’s not hard to see why more people would be drawn to a one-state solution.”