POLL: Israelis Overwhelmingly Back Arab Peace Initiative

(Credit: Jerusalem Post.)

Israelis would strongly support Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu if he attempted to engage with the Arab League’s proposal for a two-state solution, according to Al-Monitor, which reported the new poll results on Tuesday.

The Arab Peace Initiative, debuted in 2002 and reaffirmed by Arab states in 2007, sets up a basic peace framework in which Israel would withdraw from all territories acquired in 1967 and 1973 and provide a “just” settlement for refugees in exchange for recognition and normal diplomatic relations with all Arab states, including an independent Palestine. While the Initiative’s provisions are not specific enough to constitute a full deal, the document is designed to serve as a guiding framework from which a more detailed final status agreement can be hammered out. For instance, the Arab League has recently signaled that it would support land swaps as a substitute for full Israeli withdrawal from its 1967 and 1973 acquisitions.

Israelis have historically been skeptical of the Arab League’s seriousness, but the new polling numbers suggest Israelis are willing to give the deal a chance. Once the contours of the deal were explained to respondents, 55 percent of Israelis said they would support implementing it “to some degree.” By contrast, a scant 27 percent “strongly oppose” the deal and 17.5 percent weren’t sure how they fell about it.

Perhaps most interestingly, Israelis would strongly support efforts by their prime minister to pursue the Arab League’s deal. A vast majority — 69 percent — of Israelis would approve of Netanyahu adopting the Arab Peace Initiative framework and used it to come to final terms with the Palestinians and Arab states more broadly. Only 18 percent would “strongly oppose” such a move. While Netanyahu’s response to recent Arab overtures has been cagey, he cannot avoid taking a position on the Peace Initiative indefinitely: a petition signed by 52 Knesset members legally forces him to address the legislature on the issue.

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said the Arab League’s recent announcement on land swaps discredits the view that “there is no one to talk to” for peace. “We can’t miss this opportunity to return to negotiations,” Olmert said. “The taboo, that there isn’t anyone to talk to, has been broken.”

The poll, which sampled 500 Jewish Israelis, was conducted by an Israeli polling firm on behalf of the Israeli Peace Initiative, an organization attempting to build support in Israel for negotiating on the Arab Peace Initiative’s terms.

These results come at a time of renewed American attention on Israeli-Palestinian peace. During Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to Israel in April, aides leaked that the secretary “welcomes efforts to enhance the constructive role the Arab Peace Initiative can play moving forward.” In more recent testimony to the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Secretary Kerry warned that in “a year, year and a half to two years or [so, the two-state solution is] over.”