Poll: Israelis Overwhelmingly Oppose Unilateral Withdrawal

Polls reveal interesting attitudes on both sides of conflict; show Palestinians support PA's international moves and threats to go to ICC.

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Ari Soffer,

Israelis oppose repeat of 2005 Disengagement
Israelis oppose repeat of 2005 Disengagement
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Most Palestinian Arabs back the Palestinian Authority's strategy to apply for membership in international treaties, and favor turning to the International Criminal Court (ICC) as a way of fighting Israel over other means, including terrorism - whereas Israelis oppose a unilateral withdrawal from Judea and Samaria. That's according to the results of two studies released Tuesday at the Herzliyah Conference.

The first poll, conducted by Khalil Shikaki for the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, revealed that 81% of Palestinians polled thought the reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas should be used as a stepping stone towards taking the "international route" of diplomatic and legal pressure.

That has been the approach favored by Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah party, which has repeatedly threatened Israel with a "diplomatic offensive".

In contrast, only 49% of those polled backed an "intifada", or armed uprising against Israel, echoing claims by some experts that most Palestinian Arabs are weary of initiating yet another costly war with Israel.

Nevertheless, 64% opposed the disarming of "armed factions" in Gaza even after legislative elections, with 16% conditioning it on Israel lifting its security blockade on the Islamist-ruled territory, and a further 15% saying they should only be disarmed after a final agreement with Israel. 33% were opposed under any circumstances.

76% thought that the logical path to take in the event of "going international" was for the PA to file international criminal charges against Israel in the ICC. Intriguingly, Palestinian Arabs in Hamas-ruled Gaza were even more keen on that option (81%) than those in Judea and Samaria (73%). That did not, however, indicate a more "peaceful" disposition: Gazans were still more likely to favor the use of violence (48%) than Arabs in Judea and Samaria (37%).

Other interesting facts include the relatively low support for the dismantlement of the PA, as has been threatened in the past by some officials after the collapse of peace talks with Israel - including Abbas himself. Only 38% believed that following reconciliation the PA should be dismantled, although Gazans were notably more keen on doing so (43%) than Arabs living under PA rule in Judea-Samaria (36%)

Despite the failure of talks, a slim majority of Palestinian Arabs favor pursuing a "two-state solution" with Israel (58% in Judea-Samaria, 47% in Gaza) - despite the fact that 60% view it as "impractical".

Only 31% favored a "one-state solution" - i.e. the imposition of a "binational state" between the Mediterranean Sea and Jordan River - despite regular warnings that Palestinians were increasingly favoring that option.

'Bennett plan' more popular than 'unilateral withdrawal'

Along with the Palestinian poll, Israeli pollster Minah Tzemech released the results of her survey of the Israel public, which revealed that 51% of Israelis supported negotiating with the new Fatah-Hamas "unity government" if it was genuine about upholding previous commitments such as recognizing Israel's right to exist. No data was provided to show how many Israelis actually believed that to be the case though.

45% opposed talking with the Hamas-Fatah unity government under any circumstances.

Regardless, a slim majority of Israelis were opposed to another freeze on building in Judea and Samaria - with 49% against it and 48% for.

In terms of what Israel's best options at this point: 38% favored a return to negotiations, while 20% support implementing Economics Minister Naftali Bennett's plan of limited annexation in Judea and Samaria - compared to only 7% who supported Finance Minister Yair Lapid's idea of annexing "major settlement blocs" while unilaterally ethnically-cleansing the rest of Judea and Samaria of its Jewish population. 

Both ministers had laid out their plans at the Herzliyah Conference.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had blasted Lapid for his statements, which he noted contradicted previous comments made by the Yesh Atid party leader, and claimed exhibited his "inexperience" on the diplomatic scene.

A further 20% of Israelis preferred maintaining "the status quo" and only a tiny minority (3%) of Israelis favored a unilateral withdrawal from Judea and Samaria to the pre-1967 armistice lines, along the lines of the 2005 "Disengagement Plan" which saw thousands of Jews expelled from Gaza and northern Samaria.