Forward Thinking

Are Israeli Right-Wingers Hungry for Peace?

By Nathan Jeffay

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A pair of new polls indicates that right-wing Israelis are surprisingly open to a peace deal with the Palestinians.

The polls laid out a two-state-solution scenario to Israelis and asked them if they would back it. Among voters of Likud-Beytenu, the right-wing coaltion that is expected to win the January election, in a Smith Institute poll some 58% of respondents said that they would while 34% wouldn’t; and in a Dahaf Institute poll 57% would and 25% wouldn’t. Among voters of the further-right Jewish Home party 47% said they would support it and 45% oppose for Smith, and for Dahaf 53% were for and 43% against.

Overall, presented with the two-state solution outline, some 68% of Israelis gave their support for Smith and 67% for Dahaf. Opposing the proposed solution for Smith and Dahaf respectively were 25% and 21%.

The pair of polls was commissioned by the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace, which is thought to be taken quite seriously by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other influential Israeli politicians.

The scenario put forward was a peace deal that has Israel as the state of the Jewish people and a Palestinian state for Palestinians, with Palestinians given the right of return only to their state. Israel would withdraw from the West Bank but hold on to settlement blocs, compensating Palestinians with other land. The Palestinian state would be demilitarized, Jerusalem would be divided, the Old City would be without sovereignty and jointly administered by Israel, the Palestinians and the U.S.

The deal would be implemented only after Palestinians would keep all their obligations to fight terror, and would be verified and monitored by the U.S. Respondents were asked whether, if such a deal was on the table and the government was asking for their response in a referendum, they would back it.

The results seem to indicate that a large part of the right-wing outlook is due to a lack of belief that a deal can be reached, not opposition to a deal per se. Israelis need to be shown first that a deal is realistic, and then would agree. The important factor here is the idea that people would be responding to a government referendum — they have faith in their government, and if the government put a deal it stood behind on the table, many misgivings about a peace deal would fade away.

But a word of warning — these results don’t account for the impact that an anti-concessions campaign by the right wing hard-line would have on any attempt to reach such a deal. Especially on the Likud-Beytenu and Jewish Home supporters, such a campaign could change many minds.


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