Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) greets Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the Monroe Room of the State Department in Washington September 2, 2010..
(photo credit: REUTERS/JASON REED)
The bad news first: Support for the two-state solution is in decline. Try to contain your shock.
A poll published last week by the Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Research and the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey shows that support for the two-state solution declined to 43% on the Palestinian side and 49% on the Israeli side. Only 47.5% of Israelis believe the two-state solution is still possible, while among Palestinians, only 39% think it is.
Who would have thought a complete lack of any political initiative to restart negotiations, an Israeli prime minister who says no Palestinian state will be established under his watch, and a deepening split in Palestinian leadership would depress support in the two-state solution?
We have seen in the past how in the absence of any progress or negotiations, belief in the feasibility of, and support for, the two-state solution drops. If Israelis and Palestinians repeatedly and consistently hear that a peace agreement is not possible, what would be the point in supporting it?
On to the good news then. There are a few takeaways from the poll that we could find encouraging – if we try (those of us who support peace must work a little bit harder to stay positive these days).
The two-state solution remains the most preferred option. We had decades to find another solution, and while the two-state solution is not perfect (nothing is), it is by far the most realistic and fair, not to mention feasible, option.
This is not lost on the Israeli and Palestinian publics – who, when presented with three possible alternatives to a two-state solution (one state with equal rights, one state without rights, and expulsion or “transfer”) – overwhelmingly choose the two-state solution, which remains the most favored option by a majority on both sides.
Support is dependent on progress and is inextricably linked to confidence, or lack thereof, in such an eventuality still being possible.
It doesn’t take much to renew people’s faith. Soon after Barack Obama was elected in 2008, he expressed his support in the two-state solution and his intention to pursue it. Surveys conducted following Obama’s statement indicated that his statement alone, without any detailed plan or time-frame, led to a spike in faith on both the Israeli and Palestinian sides that a peace agreement was possible and imminent.
The decline in support is not ideological, it is circumstantial. It is in large part due to the inability to envision a different reality, one where peace has been achieved and its benefits are felt. It is the result of a prolonged standstill and repeated eulogies for the two-state solution. The current gridlock is detrimental to the support in the two-state solution, but renewed peace efforts, or even reaffirmed commitment by Israeli, Palestinian and world leaders, could lead to a resurgence.
Finally, it is worth noting, perceptions of the other side are instrumental in encouraging or depressing support. Some 53% of Palestinians think the majority of Israelis oppose the two-state solution, while 60% of Israelis believe the majority of Palestinians oppose it. In other words, a majority on both sides believes that a majority on the other side is opposed to the two-state solution, when this is not the case.
This shows the level of misinformation and misconception between the Israeli and Palestinian publics, a result of entrenched separation and the absence of interaction – something The Geneva Initiative works to counter every day.The writer is foreign relations director of the Geneva Initiative.
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