A poll was released today showing that large majorities of Israelis and Palestinians are ready for a two state solution. But TPMCafe reader-blogger Armchair Guerrilla looks deeper into the polling data and finds a considerably less optimistic picture.
For anyone who’s interested in this topic, it’s a fascinating read — both Armchair’s analysis and picked out data and the entire poll report itself. The gist is that while both sides are ready for peace and a two state solution, both sides insist (or seem to insist) on things that are obviously entirely incompatible with a two state solution because they’re non-starters for the other side. For instance, 74% of Palestinians are ready to live in peace in two separate states. And yet, according to poll, 59% said it was “essential” that all of all of the Occupied Territories and pre-67 Israel be an “Islamic Waqf”. 71% seem to say it’s “essential” that the final status result has to be the Palestinian state be all of historic Palestine, i.e., all of Israel and the territories. So there does seem to be some tension there. (This contradiction seemed the most glaring. But there are similar disconnects on the Israeli side. And, notably, the number of Palestinians who view a two state solution as “essential” or “desirable” is actually higher (53%) than the number of Israelis (45%) who answer in those two categories.)
Actually, the wording on those two questions is a bit ambiguous to me. It’s possible that Armchair and I are misreading the questions — and thus the contradiction isn’t that stark. So I’d be curious what others think. Go to the actual data and look at the top questions on page 4 of the PDF. If there is one place where I think Armchair has a point about the authors of the poll having too rosy a read of the data, it is that at a few points in the discussion of the numbers they refer to things Palestinian respondents call “essential” as their “first choice”, which is not quite my understanding of what those words mean, thought perhaps there is a translation issue.
In any case, both sides are willing to have a two state solution. But both sides expect it to include things that are entirely unacceptable to the other side, which is to say that they’re ready for a two state solution on their own terms.
One take on this of course is a counsel of despair. But that’s not quite where I am. I don’t think it’s that both sides really will only accept peace on their terms or that both sides are dishonest about wanting peace. I think it’s more jumbled but also more pliable than that. It sort of comes down to a really bloody and tragic version of that Stones song: You Can’t Always Get What You Want … Both sides would like everything — peace and also all the stuff they want. And the whole situation is so terribly stalemated that there’s little force on either side or purpose to press down to painful trade offs between what you’d like and what you’d settle for. You just keep saying you insist on having your cake and eating it too. Because there’s no cake to have or to eat. So it’s all just a notional question. And why not insist on everything as long as you have nothing? And this, in different ways, on both sides.
One point the poll seems to make pretty clearly is that, contrary to what some say, support isn’t slipping away from a two state and drifting toward a one state solution. Neither people wants to live in a one state with the other. And the poll does an interesting job finding the areas of overlap where one side’s minimum demands find some overlap with the other side’s maximal tolerances. And it is revealing to see where those points of overlap are.
I commend the numbers, whatever they mean, to everyone’s attention.
Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.