Support for a two-state solution among Palestinians and Israelis has declined to just one-third on each side, along with growing opposition to the detailed items of a permanent peace agreement for implementing a two-state solution. Slightly more Israeli Jews support one unequal state under Israeli rule than the two-state solution; but both publics still prefer two states to any other democratic framework for resolving the conflict. Pairs of reciprocal incentives can raise support somewhat on both sides, showing some flexibility particularly among the Israelis. But trust is declining to new low points, and a majority of Palestinians reject four proposed confidence-building measures, while a majority of Israelis accepts half of them.
These are the results of Palestinian-Israeli Pulse: A Joint Poll conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR) in Ramallah and the International Program in Conflict Resolution and Mediation at Tel Aviv University, with funding from the Netherlands Representative Office in Ramallah and the Representative Office of Japan to Palestine through UNDP/PAPP. The joint poll was conducted in December 2022.
Support for the two-state solution dropped significantly among Palestinians and Israeli Jews, from 43% in September 2020 to 33% among the Palestinians, and 34% among Israeli Jews. Two-thirds of Palestinians and 53% of Israeli Jews are opposed. Among Israeli Arabs, support remains stable at 60% and opposition at 21%, though this is significantly lower than their support historically, prior to 2020.
Why has support for a two-state solution declined so much?
Among all Israelis – Jews and Arabs – 39% in total support the two-state solution. This is the lowest level of support for this concept among Palestinians, Israeli Jews, and all Israelis, since the beginning of the Pulse, in June 2016, and it is the lowest support for all groups since the start of the Oslo process in the early 1990s .
The survey tested the concept of a two-state confederation between the states of Israel and Palestine. Five components were identified, detailing aspects of freedom of movement; citizenship and residency for refugees and settlers; Jerusalem; and joint authorities for civic affairs. Palestinians and Israeli Jews supported the concept by almost identical percentages: 22% and 21%, respectively, compared to 59% among Israeli Arabs. Surprisingly, support in the Gaza Strip is significantly higher than in the West Bank: 34% and 15%, respectively.
The survey tested other alternatives to the two-state solution: (1) a one-state with equal rights for Israeli Jews and Palestinians; (2) a one-state ruled by one of the sides, with only limited rights for the other:
- One equal democratic state is supported by 20% of Israeli Jews, 44% of Israeli Arabs, and 23% of Palestinians. These percentages are lower than those found in the previous Pulse in September 2020.
- One non-democratic state ruled by Israel without equality for Palestinians is supported by 37% of Israeli Jews; one Palestinian state without equality for Jews is supported by 30% of Palestinians and 20% of Israeli Arabs. Compared to 2020, the current percentages indicate a slight increase among Israeli Jews and a significant decrease among Palestinians for this alternative.
- Little interest in equal voting rights: In the event that Israel annexes the West Bank, a majority on both sides – two-thirds of Palestinians (66%) and over 70 percent of Israeli Jews (71%) – do not believe Palestinians should demand the right to vote. A large majority, more than three-quarters of Palestinians (78%), say they would not vote or participate in Knesset elections in such a case, but nearly 60 percent of Israeli Jews (58%) believe they will.
Attitudes continue to harden when presented with 11 detailed items of a two-state peace package identical to the one we presented in mid-2018 and September 2020. The basis of this plan is drawn from two state negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian leadership over the years. Support has been declining in recent surveys; in 2022 the trend continued, against the background of increased escalation and hard-line political developments in Israel:
- A quarter of the Palestinians (26%), 31% of Israeli Jews, and 62% of Israeli Arabs support the detailed peace package. Compared to September 2020, current support among Israeli Jews is down by 5 points, and by 1 point among the Palestinians; but support among Israeli Arabs indicates a 13-point increase (support in 2020 was unusually low in that group). Support among Gazans is more than twice as much as among West Banker: 18% and 38%, respectively. Two years ago, support among West Bankers stood at 25% compared to 31% among Gazans. Among Palestinians and Israeli Jews, the current levels of support for the package are the lowest since 2016.
- Large majorities of Palestinians reject all 11 components of the peace package; among Israeli Jews, four of the 11 components receive majority support, while large majorities of Israeli Jews reject five of the components
- A Jewish majority among secularists and self-defined left-wingers support the package; among the Palestinians, significant minorities among Fatah voters, the non-religious, and the Gaza Strip support the detailed peace package.
The peace package comprises: a demilitarized Palestinian state; an Israeli withdrawal to the Green Line with equal territorial exchange; family unification in Israel of 100,000 Palestinian refugees; west Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and east Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine; the Jewish Quarter and the Western Wall under Israeli sovereignty, and the Muslim and Christian quarters and the al Haram al Sharif/Temple Mount under Palestinian sovereignty; Israeli and the future state of Palestine will be democratic; the bilateral agreement will be part of a regional agreement with other Arab countries; the US and major Arab countries will ensure full implementation of the agreement by both sides, and the end of the conflict and claims.
The deeper divide
The hardening of attitudes is driven by deep concerns about the ultimate goals of the other side. Indeed, perceptions of the other have worsened significantly since mid-2017 and are currently at a low point, with the two sides a mirror image of each other.
The overwhelming majority of Israeli Jews (84%) and 61% of Palestinians think there is no peace partner on the other side, hence it is impossible to reach a peace agreement. Similarly, 17% of Palestinians believe most Israeli Jews have peaceful intentions, compared to 44% in June 2017 and 39% in June 2018, though the current finding is close to that of 2020 – 18%. On the Israeli side, 12% of Israeli Jews say the same about Palestinians, compared to 33% in June 2017, 35% in June 2018, and 19% in 2020. The largest percentage on each side, 52% among Israeli Jews and 44% of the Palestinians, think the other side wants to wage armed struggle or war, respectively. The overwhelming majority of Israeli Jews (82%) and Palestinians (75%) think the other side will never accept the existence of their independent state.
The overwhelming majority of Palestinians and Israeli Jews, 86% and 85%, respectively, believe the other side cannot be trusted; 50% of Israeli Arabs think Israeli Jews cannot be trusted.
Distrust is reinforced by a prevailing perception on both sides that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is characterized by zero-sum relations: “Nothing can be done that’s good for both sides; whatever is good for one side is bad for the other side.” Findings show that 65% of Israeli Jews, 46% of Israeli Arabs agree, and 71% of Palestinians agree with this dismal zero-sum characterization.
Our findings indicate that both Israeli Jews and Palestinians see the entire land between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River (i.e., the whole land of Israel/Palestine) as belonging to their group through high and identical scores (93%). Also, the majority among both publics, 94% among the Palestinians and 68% among Israeli Jews, negate the idea that the land belongs to the other side as well, thus perceiving the territory as exclusive to them.
The Palestinian sample size was 1,270 adults interviewed face to face in the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip in 127 randomly selected locations between December 1 and 4, 2022. The margin of error is +/-3%. The Israeli sample includes 900 adult Israelis interviewed through the Internet by New Wave Research in Hebrew and Arabic between December 6 and 13, 2022. The number of people interviewed inside Israel is 500; West Bank settlers 200; and Israeli Arabs 200. The combined Israeli data file has been reweighted to reflect the exact proportionate size of these three groups in the Israeli society and to reflect current demographic and religious-secular divisions. The margin of error is +/-3.34%. ■
This article is an edited version of a press release published by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR) and is printed with permission from the PSR. Dr. Khalil Shikaki is director of the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR), Dr. Nimrod Rosler and Dr. Alon Yakter are researchers at Tel Aviv University, and Dr. Dahlia Scheindlin is an independent researcher.