Do Israelis want Peace?

Rather than the usual endless continuation of rhetoric about the colonial character of Zionism, we should sometimes check what Israelis actually say about their desire for peace and co-existence with Palestinians. Do they want it? So, I did some googling, and tried to find some numbers. 

In June 2009, 56% of Israelis opposed accepting the US demand for a settlement freeze, only 37% were in favour of it. This seemed to be motivated by practical considerations, because the poll also showed that “fifty percent said failure to comply would not provoke a crisis with the U.S., while 32 percent said they thought the settlement freeze was a make or break issue for Washington.”

In March 2010, a survey of Israelis showed that 60% of them were in favour of “dismantling most of the settlements in the territories as part of a peace agreement with the Palestinians.” This was eleven points up from a 49% measure of support in December 2009, and was at the time the highest recorded level of support since 2005.  Only 33% of Israelis opposed dismantling most settlements. The surveys were carried out by the Harry S. Truman Institute for the Advancement of Peace, at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The poll found strong misconceptions on the part of Israelis with respect to the settlement enterprise, including “considerable underestimations of the Israeli public’s predominant support for dismantling most West Bank settlements as part of a peace agreement, and the extent to which settlers’ decisions to live in the West Bank are driven by personal quality of life issues, rather than by belief in a national or religious mission. Also, both the Israeli public and the settlers overestimate settlers’ willingness to resist “by all means” a comprehensive evacuation of settlements in the West Bank.”

Another poll in March 2010 found that most Israelis supported continued construction in East Jerusalem, and that 66% of Israelis supported a 2 state solution as long as all the large settlement blocks remained under Israeli control.

A new poll from June of this year found that “64% – supports the continuation of the settlement enterprise in Judea and Samaria. The remaining 36% support a temporary freeze on Jewish construction there or a complete freeze of construction.” These pollsters found that “the Israeli public is gradually moving to the political right, and is growing more appreciative of the Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria.” Perhaps most disturbing was one of the reasons people gave for their continued support of the settlements: “the fact that settlers are overrepresented among IDF combat soldiers.” After all, from a non-settler’s point of view, if the occupation is going to be staffed by settlers, then they can justify it to themselves by saying that the settlements are being protected by the settlers themselves, not by normal Israelis who don’t have an interest in the settlements.

We should also look at the results of elections, because Israelis vote for parties at least partially based on their position on a potential settlement of the Palestinian-Israel conflict. The major parties in Israel today are Likud and Kadima, and up until recently they formed a government. Likud is the party that Manachem Begin founded in 1973. Begin was the second major leader of Revisionist Zionism after Jabotinsky. Kadima is a “centrist” party formed by members of the Likud government who left because of their support for Sharon’s 2005 disengagement plan.


The Israeli nation has a national and historic right to the whole of Israel. However, in order to maintain a Jewish majority, part of the Land of Israel must be given up to maintain a Jewish and democratic state.


Jerusalem and large settlement blocks in the West Bank will be kept under Israeli control.


Likud has traditionally opposed the creation of a Palestinian state. In 2002 Netanyahu said “not today, not tomorrow, not ever”. However since the election of Obama they have changed their stance and today Likud supports the creation of a Palestinian state with conditions:

The territory controlled by the Palestinians will be demilitarized, namely without an army, without control of its airspace and with effective security measures to prevent weapons smuggling.


the problem of Palestinian refugees created when the state of Israel was born would have to be dealt with inside the future Palestine — none would be allowed back into Israel.


Jerusalem must remain the united capital of Israel


What these polls as well as the ideological position of the dominant parties in Israel tell us is that, basically, there is no support in Israel for a two-state solution that will be much else than a continuation of the occupation by another name. This is what Israel tried to get Arafat to agree to in Camp David – a state with 4 territorial discontinuities, or at Taba where they were offered something a little better, but still a Westbank with severe chunks removed by the annexation of settlement blocks. A “Palestinian state” would remain an Israeli colony in the sense of lacking political and military independence – it would not control its borders or its airspace, and because it would not be allowed to have a real military, the slightest provocation between Israel and “Palestine” would result in the easy re-occupation of Palestinian territory in a repetition of Operation Cast Lead.

A real two-state solution can not come about between a state which sees itself as a historical-religious destiny and an oppressed, colonized people who’s major source of force – their aptitude in asymmetric warfare, is demonized by the world and ever more effectively repulsed by Israel’s military and intelligence forces. Because the occupation comes at such a low civilian and military cost, there is no reason for Israel to give up what it needs to give up for the Palestinian state to be worthwhile, and therefore any “peace” agreement will not be based on justice but on the current power imbalance and the desire of the Palestinian leadership to maintain their role as a subcontracted native-colonial authority.

Real peace here is peace between humans, not between “nations”. Israel needs to become an Israeli country, a country which does not see Arabs as “the demographic threat”. Only then can it recognize the rights of the Palestinian refugees


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