The two-state solution has long been accepted as the goal of any Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. Even Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agrees. What appears to be less clear is in which of the two states Palestinians would prefer to live. A new poll suggests that a third of those Palestinians currently living in East Jerusalem would far rather take Israeli citizenship than Palestinian.
According to Dr David Pollock, the academic who commissioned the poll, the reason for this choice is economic. Those who chose Israeli citizenship, he says, most often mentioned higher income, better job opportunities and Israeli health insurance as their reasons. Those who chose Palestinian citizenship, however, overwhelmingly cited nationalism as their primary motivation.
The political implications are far from clear, especially when another round of deliberations and brawling is under way, following Barack Obama’s reiteration of his support for a solution based on the pre-1967 borders and Netanyahu’s abrupt refusal. Matters are likely only to escalate ahead of a Palestinian unilateral declaration of independence looming in September.
When Israel annexed East Jerusalem in 1967, it made its Arab residents “Israeli permanent residents”. There are now 300,000 such residents and they can work and travel in Israel. They receive the same national health care and social benefits received by Israeli citizens, and they have the right to vote in Jerusalem municipal elections, but not in national elections. Palestinians in the West Bank do not receive any of these rights.
The question over the future of Jerusalem is one of the most controversial in any Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. In a speech to the US Congress yesterday Netanyahu once again insisted that the city would not be divided, but most analysts believe any lasting solution will have to include a split.
Dr Rami Nasrallah, head of the International Peace and Cooperation Center and himself an East Jerusalemite Palestinian, says the results of the poll seem accurate, “but I don’t think that people are exactly choosing Israel; they are choosing to stay in Jerusalem, knowing that moving under the Palestinian Authority could be problematic for many reasons. They don’t think about macro politics or about liberation. Since they are in a grey area – not Israeli citizens and not Palestinian citizens – daily life is more important to them than political aspirations.”