Poll: Majority of Israelis, Palestinians want peaceful solution

A new poll reveals that, despite years of conflict, a slim majority of Israelis and Palestinians favor a peace settlement and a two-state solution.

Oded Balilty/AP/File
A Palestinian woman walks by Jewish child as he lights candles where a stabbing attack took place in Jerusalem's Old City, in October 2015. A new poll of Israelis and Palestinians released on Monday found that a slim majority on both sides still favor a peace settlement establishing a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

More than half of all Palestinians and Israelis are in favor of a two-state solution to the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a recent poll has found. 

The survey, published Monday, found that 51 percent of Palestinians and 59 percent of Israelis would like to settle the conflict peacefully and establish an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel. The findings come as Israeli authorities have confirmed that they granted permission to plan the expansion of an Israeli settlement in the West Bank city of Hebron. 

The results of the poll were "not amazingly encouraging," but also "not discouraging," said Tamar Hermann, an Israeli political scientist with the Israel Democracy Institute, who conducted the survey with pollster Khalil Shikaki of the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research. 

"It showed there is still some basis for optimism with the right leadership," Dr. Hermann said, as reported by the Associated Press. "Right now I don't see on the horizon a leader on either side willing or capable of using this as a springboard for intensifying the negotiations. But it's not impossible." 

Levels of support for an independent Palestinian state varied among Jewish and Arab Israelis, with 53 percent of Jewish Israelis and 87 percent of Arab Israelis in favor. Only 20 percent of all Israelis and 34 percent of Palestinians voiced support for a single shared state. 

Overall, support for a two-state solution among Israelis appears to be higher than it was a year ago, in June of 2015, when a similar poll found that only 51 percent of both Israelis and Palestinians were in favor of an independent Palestinian state. Those numbers, however, were a significant decrease from the year before, when support levels were at 62 and 54 percent among Israelis and Palestinians, respectively. 

The recent survey follows nearly a year of low-level violence between Palestinians and Israelis: at least 34 Israelis have been killed in shootings, stabbings, and vehicular attacks since September, and at least 206 Palestinians by Israeli fire. Hebron, in particular, has been a flashpoint for violence. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has announced plans to strengthen and expand Israeli settlements there following the stabbing death in June of a 13-year-old Israeli girl in her bed by a Palestinian assailant in Kiryat Arba, an Israeli settlement adjacent to the city. 

The poll published Monday found high levels of mistrust, particularly among Israelis: 65 percent of Israelis fear Palestinians, while only 45 percent of Palestinians fear Israelis. Hermann attributes the imbalance in part to Israelis' lack of contact with Palestinians, rhetoric from Israeli leaders, and media reports.

"The only images the average Israeli, and I suppose the average Palestinian, gets are the negative ones," she said. 

This report contains material from the Associated Press. 

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