There has been a steady increase in the number of Palestinians who are open to the idea of a bi-national state rather than the internationally-backed two-state solution, a new Palestinian poll suggests.

According to the survey, conducted by the Jerusalem Media and Communication Center (JMCC), nearly 34 percent of respondents favored a bi-national state in what it called “historic Palestine.”

In comparison, a JMCC poll conducted in June 2009 showed around 20% support for a bi-national state and in 2001 just 18% of respondents favored this notion.

In the current JMCC poll, the two-state solution was supported by around 44% of the respondents. 

Although the survey still notes higher support for a two-state solution rather than a bi-national state, the trend over the years shows an increase in support for the latter. According to JMCC polls, this trend has persisted steadily since shortly after the eruption of violence between Israelis and Palestinians in September 2000.

The survey was based on face-to-face interviews with 1,198 Palestinian adults, including 748 in the West Bank and 450 in the Gaza Strip. It had a 3 percent margin of error.

Dr. Faisal Awartani, CEO of the Ramallah-based Alpha International for Research, Polling & Informatics said the support among Palestinian for a bi-national state was more a result of circumstance than inherent will.

“It’s because the Israelis are interested in this, not the Palestinians,” Awartani told The Media Line. “We’re interested in a two-state solution, but we feel the Israelis are settling all over the West Bank and making small islands with check points all over. We don’t see value in a two-state solution any longer. It’s only natural for us to think of a bi-national state, because it will solve the problems of refugees, borders and Jerusalem and from an economic point of view we will be merging with a much larger economy.”

Awartani argued that present facts on the ground present formidable challenges for a successful attempt to carve out two states. He said Israel’s continued construction of Jewish communities in the West Bank and in eastern Jerusalem - areas that the Palestinians see as part of their future state - was rendering a two-state solution impossible.

“The Israelis have to make up their minds,” Awartani said. “The Israeli public has to think seriously about the idea of settlements. When they elected [Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu, my understanding was that they wanted more settlements in the West Bank so my analysis is that they want a bi-national state.”

Prof. Camil Fuchs from the Department of Statistics at Tel Aviv University said among Israelis, the two-state solution has always been the preferred strategy.

With regards to Awartani’s comments on Israelis wanting a bi-national state, he said it all depended on how the question was framed.

“If you ask Israelis what they think of having one state, with equal rights for Palestinians and sharing a government, you are probably going to get a very low rate of approval among the Jews in Israel,” Fuchs told The Media Line.

“In Israel, a bi-national state is a scary notion and it’s not something that they want,” he said.

Fuchs added that Israelis who were in favor of Jewish communities in the West Bank were not necessarily in favor of a bi-national state. They would probably be likely to approve of a continuation of the current situation and one state, provided it remain under Jewish sovereignty, he added.

“They would like to be in a situation where we continue this situation and hope that God will solve the problem,” he said. “The clear majority of Israelis do want a two-state solution.”

From an Israeli standpoint, the most daunting aspect of a bi-national state derives from its inherent democratic character. Such a state would give all its inhabitants equal rights, thus posing a demographic threat when the Arab population eventually outnumbered the Jews and erode the concept of a Jewish state.

Fuchs believed it was unlikely that the two-state solution idea would be usurped by a bi-national state concept by the international community.

“I don’t think they will go towards a bi-national state, but they will see the urgency of the two-state solution, because otherwise they are losing time,” he said. “If it won’t be a bi-national state, it will be a continuing conflict.”

Meanwhile, a recent poll conducted by an Israeli university found that 60 percent of the public supported dismantling Jewish communities in the lands acquired in the 1967 war if it were part of a peace agreement with the Palestinians.

The poll, conducted by the Harry S. Truman Institute for the Advancement of Peace at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, mark the highest support for this idea among the Israeli public since 2005, the last time Israel uprooted Jewish communities in the Gaza Strip and West Bank.

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