Two-thirds of Israeli Jews don’t consider West Bank ‘occupied’

Times of Israel

Nearly two-thirds of Jewish Israelis do not consider holding on to the West Bank a form of occupation, according to a new survey. The poll also found that more than four-fifths of Israelis think US President Donald Trump’s chances of orchestrating a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians within the next two years are low.

The results were published Sunday by the Israel Democracy Institute, as part of its monthly Peace Index. The poll focused on the mood in the country as it marked the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Six Day War, when Israel captured East Jerusalem and the West Bank, along with the Golan Heights, the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip.

According to the poll, 62% of Israeli Jews do not see the West Bank, which Palestinians claim for their future state, as occupied.

Two-thirds of Jewish Israelis (65%) disagree with the statement that immediately after the war Israel should have “should have ceded conquered territories and launched negotiations with the Arab states for a comprehensive peace agreement,” the poll found. Fifty-five percent of respondents affirmed that Israel should have annexed the captured territories at the time, as it later did with East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.

Fifty years later, the Jewish population is evenly split on whether or not Israel should now annex territories it still holds, with 44% in favor and 45% against. Some right-wing lawmakers, among them government ministers, have urged annexing the territory as a way of consolidating Israeli control. Just over half of the Jewish population (51%) agree that the West Bank settlement enterprise is “wise.”

Among survey respondents who identified as being on the right of the political spectrum, three quarters support the settlements, while only 37% of those in the center held the same belief. Only 4% of those who identify as being on the left think the settlements are wise.

Overall, the general public — including Arab respondents — were split 46% in favor and against the settlements, with 8% undecided.

Most Jews (61%) and Arabs (54%) agree that despite the unification of Jerusalem under Israeli rule following the Six Day War, the capital is still de facto divided into an eastern and a western city.

A majority of 56% disagree with the claim that the settlements are an obstacle to peace, although among left-identifying respondents that number rises to 89%.

The poll comes less than two weeks after a visit to Israel by Trump, who, in meetings with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, declared his determination to help restart peace talks.

While two-thirds of the Jewish public said they felt Trump’s visit was successful, the majority of the Arab public — 52% — expressed the opposite opinion.

However, a majority of Jews were pessimistic of Trump’s ability to restart peace talks, with 59% saying the chances are low. An overwhelming majority of 82% of Jews and Arabs think Trump’s chances of seeing a peace deal signed within the next two years are low, the poll found.

Over half of Jewish Israelis (52%) think Trump will put pressure on Israel to follow the Saudi Peace Initiative, which calls for a two-state solution based on a withdrawal of Israel to its pre-1967 borders with some land swaps. About the same proportion, 53%, believe that the involvement of Arab states such as Saudi Arabia will help peace efforts.

Before his arrival in Israel on May 22, Trump spent the weekend in Saudi Arabia, where he urged moderate Arab states and leaders to form a common front regional threats — extremist Islamism and Iran. Within the framework of that cooperation, Trump called for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The survey was conducted on May 28-29 by the Midgam Research Institute and sampled 500 Jewish and 100 Arab respondents representing the adult population of Israel. It has a margin of error of 4.1%, the IDI said.

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