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Carob Juice Vendor outside of Damascus Gate, Old City of Jerusaelm. [Note: The man in the photo was not interviewed.]
Photo by Rhonda Spivak.

East Jerusalemite serving food at Jafar Sweets, Old City of Jerusalem. [This man was not interviewed.]
Photo by Rhonda Spivak.

East Jerusalemite selling carab juice in Old City. [Also not interviewed.]
Photo by Rhonda Spivak.

Arab Market, Old City of Jerusalem. [Man in photo also not interviewed.]



by Rhonda Spivak, January 18, 2011

40% said even with a peace deal Palestinian militants would  continue armed struggle against Israel

One of the basic premises in the Middle East peace process is that Palestinians desperately want to be of rule by Israel and to live in a state of their own.

But this past summer, when in Jerusalem I repeatedly interviewed East Jerusalem Arabs –those who lived in neighborhoods that would form part of a Palestinian capital of East Jerusalem if there ever were an accord. But a majority of those I spoke to told me clearly that they preferred to live in Israel rather than in a Palestinian state. Those I interviewed were all men—who would presumably have influence in their family units.

A couple of them even chuckled or laughed out loud when I suggested I naturally thought that they would prefer to live under PA rule, rather than Israel.  A couple of them even lived in the neighborhood of Beit Hanina in East Jerusalem, the same neighborhood where Israeli Prime Minister Salam Fayyad lives.

I reported on these findings in two articles that are reprinted at the bottom of this article or can be accessed by clicking here: clicking here.

One of the Palestinian men I interviewed said something I will never forget,  “Fayyad. I know where he lives. He lives in my neighborhood. But I don’t want him as my Prime Minister. Obama wants him to be my Prime Minister, but I don’t.”

This East Jerusalem Arab man went on to speak about how he believed the PA was corrupt and out to benefit themselves more than their people.

This is why a  new poll of the Arabs of East Jerusalem which was designed and supervised by former State Department Middle East researcher David Pollock caught my eye immediately. It confirms exactly what I reported, even though this is something that has not often been reported:   more  Arabs of East Jerusalem actually would prefer to be citizens of Israel than of a Palestinian state.

There is also another finding that is significant: According to the poll, More than 40 percent of East Jerusalem Arabs  said that even if Israelis and Palestinians signed a peace deal and East Jerusalem became the capital of a new state, some Palestinian militants would certainly or probably continue an armed struggle against Israel. This, of course, is what many Israelis, who are reluctant to cede the West Bank and East Jerusalem fear.

The poll, conducted in November 2010, is no doubt an embarrassment to Palestinian political leaders, and is something that pro-Palestinian journalists are not likely to report. After all, Palestinian leadership has been insisting that Israel must stop building new apartments in East Jerusalem—in effect giving up any claim to it as a precondition for the resumption of peace negotiations. 

Pollock’s survey, found that only 30 percent of East Jerusalem Arabs [who number about 270,000] said they would prefer to be citizens of Palestine in a two-state solution, while 35 percent said they would choose Israeli citizenship. (The rest said they didn't know or refused to answer.) 

The. Arabs that want to stay  prefer Israel's jobs, schools, health care and welfare benefits to those of a Palestinian state, and their Palestinian nationalism is not strong enough for them to set aside these advantages in order to live in Palestine. The East Jerusalemites in the poll do say that they suffer from discrimination in Israel, but  many like enough aspects of Israel that they would prefer to stay.

When asked if they would move to a different location inside Israel, if their neighborhood became part of Palestine, 40 percent said they were likely to move to Israel, and 37percent said they will not move. In comparison, 27 percent said they are likely to move to Palestine if their neighborhood became part of Israel, and 54 percent said they will not move.

"Quite clearly there is a discrepancy between people's attitudes and the assumption that Palestinian neighborhoods should be part of Palestine," Pollock, a senior fellow at The Washington Institute told the Washington Post. Pollock’s work was sponsored by Pechter Middle East polls in partnership the Council on Foreign Relations. "That's not actually what the people want."

Pollock told Ha’aretz, "I assume the Palestinian leadership wouldn’t be too happy about the results, but he said,”I think the results are very credible and solid.” 

Pollock said he felt "the main reason so little attention was paid to the opinion of people living there is because people were nervous to find answers to these questions." 

"The Palestinian leadership might have been nervous because they understood these Palestinians have special benefits and interests not to lose these benefits," Pollock added, saying that "from an Israeli point of view – people are more interested in the political significance of the city than perceptions of the Palestinians who live there."

"Neither side had obvious short term interests in finding out what was under the surface," he added.

When asked to provide the top reasons they chose one citizenship over the other, those who chose Israeli citizenship stressed freedom of movement in Israel, higher income, better job opportunities and Israeli health insurance. (Although freedom of expression is not listed a number of Palestinian Arabs mentioned this factor in my interviews with them.)

"A Palestinian expert and colleague of mine… accepts the results and takes it as a signal that the Palestinian Authority must convince more Palestinians that they can provide employment opportunities and services as well as Israel can – it’s a practical kind of challenge," Pollock told Ha’aretz.

Field work for Pollock’s poll was conducted in November 2010 by a West Bank based Palestinian Polling Firm , Palestinian Centre for Public Opinion headed by Dr. Nabil Kulali, using in-home face to face interviews with a representative sample of 1039 East Jerusalemites. Pollock told Ha’aretz that he was in Jerusalem in November 2010 to supervise the results and was “confident” in them. 

Those who chose Palestinian citizenship referred to nationalism and patriotism. Both groups, in each possible scenario, expressed concern over the possibility of losing access to the Al Aqsa Mosque because it’s unclear where  the permanent border will be. 

Among other concerns about becoming Palestinian citizens that respondents cited were losing access to jobs and free movement in Israel, losing government provided health care, unemployment and disability benefits, and municipal services. 

Those who chose to be Israeli citizens are concerned about discrimination, obstacles to receive building permits, problems with visiting relatives and friends in Palestine, and possible moral misconduct of the kids.

About 56 percent of East Jerusalemites said they traveled inside Israel at least once a week; 60 percent said access to its Mediterranean beaches was "very important" or "moderately important"

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.