PROF. TAMAR HERMANN and Dr. Khalil Shikaki speak at this week’s press conference about a poll carried out by the Israel Democracy Institute and sponsored in part by the European Union..
(photo credit: KONRAD-ADENAUER-STIFTUNG)
This week I attended a briefing at Jerusalem’s American Colony Hotel on the results of a new poll, carried out by the Israel Democracy Institute and sponsored in part by the European Union, surveying Israeli and Palestinian attitudes toward the peace process.
Yeah, I know – to some ears this sounds like a morning spent in peace process purgatory. But heck, somebody has to go to these things and try and make sense of them, so it might as well be me.
Hats off also to indefatigable pollsters Khalil Shikaki of the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, and Prof.
Tamar Hermann of Tel Aviv University, who have been tracking this subject for decades now. By this point they probably feel like those market analysts who specialize in following Yahoo!, which was founded about the same time the Oslo Accords were signed, and whose stock has been doing about just as well in recent years.
As Hermann noted, there was little unexpected in the survey. Support for the principle of a two-state solution has dropped on both sides, although some might be mildly surprised that it still just tops 50 percent, with 51% of Palestinians and 59% of Israelis (counting Israeli Arabs) remaining in favor. Both figures though drop below 50% when some of the specific elements introduced in past negotiations as deal-breakers by either side are introduced into the equation, such as Palestinian demilitarization or recognition of Israel as the Jewish state, or Israeli willingness to share sovereignty of Jerusalem and compensate Palestinian refugees in some form.
But there were glimmers of hope in a section dealing with “peace incentives” that were offered to those Israelis and Palestinians who expressed opposition to these more detailed two-state solutions.
If such an agreement would include peace with all Arab states according to the Arab Peace Initiative, 26% of Israeli Jews who initially opposed the detailed proposal said they were willing to change their minds and accept it. Even more surprising, a near-similar percentage of Palestinians also dropped their opposition to the survey’s two-state package if it were part of an overall regional peace deal.
These results only reinforce the concept that the only realistic way to a viable Israeli- Palestinian peace deal is a regional track that would entail all of Israel’s Arab neighbors as partners in the process. Of course, that can’t just include those nations like Egypt or Jordan with which it already has relations, or even the Gulf states with which it now has many common interests; outright enemies of the Jewish state, such as Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and even non-Arab Iran, are going to have to be on-board with the effort for a negotiated solution, or else they are going to be working constantly to undermine it.
Yes, that’s a tough and probably unworkable prospect at the present time, but at least it suggests a viable avenue of approach for all those international parties most invested in forging an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, including the US, the United Nations and the European Union.
YET THAT doesn’t appear to be where they are investing most of their efforts, especially the EU, which should probably pay a little more attention to the surveys it sponsors.
Instead, the EU is backing the increasingly pointless, if not outright absurd, French peace initiative. The IDI polling concluded a that final-status agreement is unrealistic within the next five years; the French program seeks to set rigid deadlines on contentious issues on which there is clearly no present common ground for a solution minimally acceptable to either side, and is proposing a peace conference in Paris later this year that won’t even include Israel or the Palestinians.
Those diplomats, officials and activists vested in an Israeli-Palestinian peace should be focusing all their efforts on building acceptance in Mideast capitals for a Jewish state alongside a Palestinian nation on the terms already laid out by such precedent-setting negotiations as the Clinton Camp David talks of 2000. Instead, they seem more invested in micromanaging property disputes between the Netanyahu government and the Palestinian Authority in east Jerusalem and the West Bank, which at any rate will ultimately be decided by a final peace deal, no matter how many Jewish outposts or Palestinian structures are erected in these areas.
Places such as the Palestinian village of Sussiya or the Amona settlement outpost have become mirror-image political theaters of the absurd, with huge amounts of diplomatic, political and even financial effort and attention on both sides focused on the fate of several dozen flimsy dwellings, even as tectonic shifts reshaping the entire Middle East might offer new opportunities to advance the peace process.
The simple fact is that the road to a two-state solution, starting out from Jerusalem and Ramallah, does not run through Sussiya.
(Any more than the path to Greater Israel runs through Amona, a point proven by the 2005 Gaza withdrawal). Nor does it run through Paris, or increasingly even through Washington. It does run through Cairo, Amman, Riyadh, Doha, Dubai and eventually even Beirut, Damascus, Baghdad and Tehran.
It’s a long and winding road, and it will be tough going all the way. It’s not for the faint-hearted or the impatient, or for those primarily looking to score easy political points or to validate their own sense of moral superiority over the people directly involved in the conflict and with the most to lose if a wrong step is taken.
This is the road to peace still largely not being taken, even by many of those who pay lip-service to the regional approach to a two-state solution. Of course it’s a lot easier to attend briefings at the American Colony, than to carry out the real hard work of heading to far less hospitable corners of the Middle East and helping to build regional acceptance for the presence of a secure Jewish state as the price for the establishment of a Palestinian state sitting beside it. But there are no short cuts in the road out of peace process purgatory, and into the promised land of a viable two-state agreement.Calev Ben-David is the political/diplomatic correspondent for IBA English News. Comments welcome via Facebook/Twitter.