The 400,000 Arabs leaving in eastern Jerusalem have a unique status, which allows them to apply for—and usually obtain—Israeli citizenship if they so desire. According to a recent survey, 48 percent say they would rather be citizens of Israel than of a Palestinian state. Moreover, 63 percent agree at least “somewhat” with the assertion that they would be better off under Israel than under either Hamas or the Palestinian Authority. David Pollock analyzes these and other data from the poll, which show surprisingly moderate attitudes toward the Jewish state and the Abraham Accords:
These striking findings represent a reversion to the pragmatic east Jerusalem attitudes last registered in 2014, before the “knife intifada,” rising tensions on the Temple Mount, and tough Israeli responses. The current more conciliatory mood probably reflects their recent experience of access to Israeli healthcare, social-welfare benefits, ability to travel both inside and outside Israel, and jobs during the past two years of coronavirus-related issues. By comparison, most Palestinians across the security barrier in the West Bank have none of those advantages.
Such comparatively moderate (or just apolitical) views emerge in response to many other questions in this new survey as well. For example, 62 percent agree with this statement: “Right now, the Palestinians should focus on practical matters like jobs, healthcare, education, and everyday stability, not on big political plans or resistance options.” The same proportion also agree that “right now, the Palestinians need to pay much more attention to countering extremist Islamic trends in our own society.” And a solid majority (65 percent) say that “the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is mostly just for politicians or old people, and I just don’t think about it very much.”
All these data points counter the impression of mass alienation and anger in east Jerusalem, especially since this survey was taken so soon after high Ramadan tensions there. In this context, it was likely helpful that this time, unlike in some earlier episodes, Israel allowed tens of thousands of mostly local Palestinian Muslims to pray peacefully at al-Aqsa and the surrounding plaza (al-Haram al-Sharif).
Still more surprising are the responses in east Jerusalem to other Arab governments, and to new moves toward broader Arab-Israeli rapprochement. Half (47 percent) of the city’s Palestinians express at least a “somewhat” favorable view of the Abraham Accords—compared with just one-fourth of West Bankers.