In May, The Peace Index, a joint venture of The Evens Mediation and Conflict Resolution Center at Tel Aviv University and The Israel Democracy Institute, looked at the likelihood of the Palestinians unilaterally declaring a state. Among the findings:
Will they or won’t they declare a state? About two-thirds of the Jewish public in Israel thinks that in September the Palestinians will declare the establishment of an independent Palestinian state and request that the UN General Assembly recognize it, even without an agreement with Israel. A majority (56%) of the Arab public, however, sees the chances of this as low.
Will it or won’t it be recognized? A higher rate (75%) of the Jewish public also believes that a General Assembly majority will recognize the Palestinian state even if Israel opposes this move. As for the Arab public, 68% foresee a large majority in the General Assembly.
Could it have been prevented? Fifty-five percent of the Jews say Israel could not have prevented Palestinian declaration even if Israel had shown greater political flexibility in the past. Moreover, a majority (60%) of them do not think Israel should moderate its positions at this stage so as to prevent the Palestinian declaration – even if it is still possible to prevent the declaration. Sixty-four percent consider that even if Israel significantly moderates its positions, the chances that the Palestinians will not declare an independent state and request UN recognition for it are low. A majority of the Arabs (57%), however, think the Palestinian declaration could have been prevented if Israeli policy had been more flexible.
And what will happen after the declaration and the recognition? The majority of the Jewish public (64%) believes that the declaration of Palestinian independence and the UN recognition will damage Israeli interests. An even larger majority (74%) believes that the chances are high that following the anticipated recognition, the international community will exert substantial pressures on Israel, such as economic sanctions, in order to force Israel to withdraw from the territories.
And who will not recognize the Palestinian state? Seventy-one percent of the Jewish public thinks the current Israeli government will not recognize a Palestinian state that is declared unilaterally. A majority (Jews – 57%, Arabs – 60%) also thinks that, under these circumstances, the U.S. will not recognize the Palestinian state. At the same time, the Jewish public is divided as to whether Israel will or will not be able to allow itself not to recognize an independent Palestinian state: 48% believe it will be able to allow itself to withhold recognition while 47% think it will not. In the Arab public, a majority (53%) says Israel will be able to allow itself not to recognize the Palestinian state after the Palestinians declare the state and it is recognized by the UN.
And what will happen in the territories? A large majority (Jews – 70%, Arabs – 62%) thinks that following the declaration of an independent Palestinian state and its recognition by the UN, the chances are high that an intifada will erupt in the territories. Fifty-eight percent of the Jews (50% of the Arabs) also believe the Palestinian leadership will encourage such an intifada.
And what about negotiations with the Palestinian unity government? Surprisingly, the opinions in the Jewish public are divided: 38% support the claim that negotiations can be held even if Hamas is part of the government, since the alternative of an agreement with a Palestinian government that represents only half the people would be pointless. For 35%, the inclusion of Hamas in the Palestinian leadership means that Israel cannot negotiate with the Palestinian Authority, while 24% oppose negotiations with the Palestinians whether or not Hamas is part of their government. In the Arab public, 78% support the first position, and are in favor of negotiating with a unity government that includes Hamas.