I have always held a sympathy for the “man in the street”, caught in the middle of the political and diplomatic comings and goings that go on around the Israel-Palestinian conflict. From my friends who are Palestinians, I know that in many ways they differ little from us in their basic needs and dreams. They simply want to support their families, earn a reasonable wage for their work and see their children get educated, married and succeed in life – don’t we all?
I was fascinated, therefore, to come across the results of a poll taken in East Jerusalem a couple of weeks before Mr Abbas’ speech at the UN and the launch of his bid for Palestinian statehood. East Jerusalem Palestinian Arabs hold a somewhat unique position; they hold Israeli ID cards and have free movement between East and West Jerusalem. They can also move easily between the disputed territories of the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) and Israel “proper”. Their standard of living is higher than that of their compatriots in Ramallah or Bethlehem (for instance), they have access to Israeli educational institutions and can hold higher paid jobs in West Jerusalem than their opposite numbers in Palestinian controlled cities.
With the peace process at a complete standstill and yet with the Palestinian leadership still holding the ambition of a capital in East Jerusalem, it is telling that this poll shows that most of the citizens of that “capital in the sky” would prefer to live under Israeli control! We should bear this in mind as Mr Abbas and his team continue their attempt at statehood – the man in the (Arab) street may not agree.
Below is a summary of the findings of the poll and you can find the complete article on the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs website.
What Do the Arabs of East Jerusalem Really Want?
- According to face-to-face surveys conducted according to the highest international standards, more Palestinians in east Jerusalem would prefer to become citizens of Israel rather than citizens of a new Palestinian state. In addition, 40 percent said they would probably or definitely move in order to live under Israeli rather than Palestinian rule.
- 44 percent of the Palestinians in Jerusalem say they are very, or at least somewhat, satisfied with their standard of living. This is a very high percentage compared to other populations in the Arab world. Only about 30 percent sympathize with either Fatah or Hamas or with the Israeli Arab Islamic movement. Politics is not a major preoccupation.
- Three-quarters of east Jerusalem Arabs are at least a little concerned, and more than half are more than a little concerned, that they would lose their ability to write and speak freely if they became citizens of a Palestinian state rather than remaining under Israeli control.
- Significantly, 41 percent thought that the armed conflict probably or definitely would continue even after a peace agreement, and this is from the most moderate population of Palestinians. Only a third say that a unilateral declaration of Palestinian independence backed by the UN would have a positive effect on their lives. Two-thirds say that such a unilateral step would have no positive effect.
- For people who tend to assume that a fair and practical solution for the Jerusalem issue is for the Arab neighborhoods to become part of Palestine and the Jewish neighborhoods to become part of Israel, these findings suggest that this could be somewhat problematic from the point of view of the people who actually live in east Jerusalem.