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Even when the Israeli public does stop to consider peace, support for the two-state framework has been eroding since around 2010, when it reached a high point of 71%. By December 2017, just 46% of Israeli Jews supported the general idea, the same portion of Palestinians who supported it—both sides saw the exact same decline in June 2018, and sup- port from both now stands at 43%.43 When the higher levels of Arab Israeli support for a two-state solution are included, total Israeli support in the December poll just crossed to a majority of 52%. The decline is not exactly ideological; it is driven largely by the sense that the solution is no longer feasible. In December 2017, more Israeli Jews believed that the two-state solution is no longer viable than those who think it is, by a small margin of 46% to 42%, respectively. Perceptions of nonviability are highly correlated with opposition to a two-state outcome, and similarly, perceptions of viability are correlated with high support.

https://carnegieendowment.org/files/CarnegieBaker_Palestine_Final1.pdf

Why do a plurality of Israelis believe that the two-state solution is no longer viable? The article mentions that most Israeli Jews no longer support the two-state solution, and the reason for that is that most of them don't see it as a realistic option for peace. Why do a plurality of Israeli believe that? It wasn't explained at all in the article unfortunately.

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    So, do you want an answer in the present circumstances, or in 2018 terms/mindset? Commented Feb 29 at 4:40
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    2018 would be fine, although I doubt the reason changed.
    – Sayaman
    Commented Feb 29 at 4:42
  • 1
    You say "most" but your numbers don't show that
    – littleadv
    Commented Feb 29 at 5:27

4 Answers 4

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Why does a plurality of Israelis believe that the two-state solution is no longer viable?

Well, you kindof answered your own question:

The article mentions that most Israeli Jews no longer support the two-state solution, and the reason for that is that most of them don't see it as a realistic option for peace. Why does a plurality of Israeli believe that?

Historically Israelis have been disappointed on numerous occasions. As the quotes in the other answer show, Israelis don't see any value proposition in that. The other answer describes the political shift to the right, but doesn't really explain as to why it happens.

While in the 1980 and early 1990s Palestinian attacks were either individuals with knives, or occasional transportation hijackings and bombings, then after the Oslo accords and establishing the Palestinian Authority the attacks escalated into much more sophisticated bombings and armed attacks. The Israeli right was demonstrating then with slogans like "don't give them guns", and they feel very much vindicated.

(as a side note, Israel didn't actually give them any guns, others did)

In early 2000s, Israel withdrew from Gaza unilaterally, and instead of building a self-supporting State in Gaza the Palestinians focused all their efforts on using it as the basis of attacks against Israel for the next two decades, attacks that culminated in the October 7th events.

So what should the Israelis expect from a two-State solution? Why would they support it?

The reality is that the governments of Gaza and West Bank are currently completely separate and unrelated to each other (in fact, fighting with each other). The current Palestinian leader is a octogenarian in his last days who can't control even the area that is technically under his control, and it is unclear what would happen once he's gone. So, who should the Israelis consider as the negotiating partner with regards to the solution? Who'd be that "State"?

As the result, the support for such a solution is declining because it's just not a realistic option right now.

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    Meh, if you read the quotes from Israelis in my answer, they explain rather clearly why they trusted the two-state idea less and less: past failures. Although your summary may be more organized/chronological than theirs. Commented Feb 29 at 6:51
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    Well yes, but you didn't expand on that so I felt it should be discussed more to the point. But yes, your quotes basically cover the rationale.
    – littleadv
    Commented Feb 29 at 6:52
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Oct 7 aside, which I'm sure did 'wonders' for Israeli-Palestinian relations...

Here's a 2021 focus groups summary (yeah, those aren't as good as polls and can be skewed pretty easily by a biased interviewer, but they usually have more detail)

Researchers found that among Israeli Jews there are two major impediments to anything but the status quo: a lack of trust in Palestinian objectives and a general belief that none of the other alternatives are feasible. The lack of trust results in fear, xenophobia, and a willingness to forgo basic principles of democracy when it comes to the rights of Palestinians.

And from the details, I'm only quoting the factors/arguments against two-state solution ('cause that's what you ask--there are 'for'/opposing arguments too in the piece)

Negative: “We won’t gain anything from this solution. Today we have intelligence control over the area. We can go in and capture terrorists. Every area that we evacuate can be used to shoot us or launch arson kites at us.” (Right-wing voter, Tel Aviv, 2018)

“We gave them all of Gush Katif, and in return we got terror, terror, and more terror. When we controlled Gush Katif, rockets could not reach all the places they reach today. You give more, you need to withstand more. It is a simple equation—the closer to us we draw the border, the closer we bring the danger.” (Ultra-Orthodox participant, Jerusalem, 2018)

“I find it a bit painful that people who lived here during the Oslo days can still talk about a two-state solution. We tasted a hint of what could happen under Palestinian sovereignty. . . . It would be a terror state 50 meters from Kfar Saba. They would not need rockets or anything sophisticated; just shoot us. We tried!” (Soviet émigré, Tel Aviv, 2019)

“The Palestinian society is a tribal society and they do not have the mind of a state. There is no one there that wants real peace. There are the Jihad, Hamas, who control the people. They are evil, anti, someone put it in their head to be against us. If they get a state, it will become another area in addition to Gaza that they can use to attack us.” (Traditional center right-wing voter, Tel Aviv, 2019)

“Something that can assuage my fears would be if I see a Palestinian leader in 20 or 50 years that stops talking about the right of return and terrorism, stops incitement, stops supporting terrorists in prison, and instead invests in the economy, builds factories, homes in schools—then I would be convinced.” (National religious rightwing voter, Tel Aviv, 2019)

“The settlers won’t agree to evacuate, and the Arabs won’t have us. It is an ideology versus ideology. I don’t think that someone who lives like a pirate would agree to leave even for millions. If it was about convenience the settlers would have left already.” (Ultra-Orthodox participant, Tel Aviv, 2019)

“There is no such thing as Palestinian people. They are not a nation, so we cannot talk about two states for two nations. They have no history. It is something made up recently. They don’t have rights over this territory. They have enough other places to go to.” (Traditional center right-wing voter, Tel Aviv, 2019)

“Morally, the land belongs to us. To give it to them—give them a state—would mean we are leaving and that it does not belong to us. That contradicts Zionism and our return to the land of Israel. That is wrong.” (Ultra-Orthodox participant, Jerusalem, 2018)

“We are a small country, not the size of Canada. If we were the size of Canada, we could have divided it. If you have a whole loaf of bread, you can share it but like in the Holocaust, you can’t share one slice of bread. We need the whole area. There are ten more million Jews in the world. In 20–30 years from now we will need the whole area to live here. Look how densely populated the country is.” (National religious right-wing voter, Tel Aviv, 2019)

And here's e.g. a 2014 poll, which has number somewhat similar to the OP's question poll, albeit on a related (but probably explanatory) issue:

Nearly half of Jewish Israelis agree that Arabs should be expelled or transferred from Israel, and a solid majority (79 percent) maintain that Jews in Israel should be given preferential treatment, according to a Pew Research Center in Israel survey published on Tuesday.

The poll, with 5,601 in-person interviews of Israeli adults, conducted between October 2014 and May 2015, found that Israeli Jews increasingly believe the West Bank settlements help, rather than hurt, Israel’s security [...]

The survey makes no distinction between Palestinian Arabs of the West Bank and citizens of Israel in its question about whether Arabs should be expelled from Israel. And yet, 48% of Jewish Israelis said they were in favor, 46% were opposed, and 6% said they didn’t know.

And you may be surprised, but unlike in may other countries, in Israel, the youth is more right-wing than their parents. Which in part explains this growing trend, over time.

In Israel, the left-right dichotomy is heavily influenced by issues of peace and security, with the left historically more likely to support making concessions with Palestinian negotiators toward a two-state solution, and the right more likely to support one Israel-dominated state, including in the occupied territories (albeit with some caveats on each side). [...]

The Israeli youth who helped elect that government are indeed less in favor of a two-state solution than older generations. According to a joint poll published by Israeli and Palestinian academics in January 2023, just 20 percent of Israeli Jewish youth 18 to 34 support a two-state solution, an 8 percentage point drop in two years, while 68 percent oppose it. This stands in contrast to the 47 percent of Israeli Jewish respondents over 55 who support the two-state solution, perhaps as a result of being more secular and old enough to remember times when peace processes were higher on the political agenda.

Consequently the Israeli left is in an increasingly irrelevant minority, so it doesn't matter what they say/think (in case you wonder why none are quoted in the RAND focus group bit I gave on this rejection of two-state issue)

enter image description here

(Yeah, one might cringe at the red color for the right-wing, but that was the source's choice.)


And yeah, those 2018 numbers seem to have moved significantly (albeit the Q below wasn't identical):

“Israelis are in belligerent mood,” pollster Dahlia Scheindlin told POLITICO. She was speaking after a poll by the Israel Democracy Institute found that 75 percent of Jewish Israelis think the country should ignore mounting pressure from the United States to wind down the war in Gaza. And another poll by Gallup recently showed that 65 percent oppose the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.

This hardening of Israeli opinion regarding a two-state solution is in lockstep with clear signs that the Oct. 7 attacks will tilt the country further right, dominated in its vanguard by the ideas of West Bank settlers who want Israel to have the footprint of all the biblical lands of the Jews. This is in keeping with a historical pattern, Scheindlin said — whenever Israel is dealt a major violent shock, right-wing parties and politicians benefit.

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    Is it really the case that "the youth is more right-wing than their parents", or rather that right-wing families have more children on average? Commented Feb 29 at 13:44
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    @leftaroundabout: as populations/percentages the former is true (even if the cause is the latter or not). Yeah the way I phrased it might sound like an ecological fallacy, like it's true in every family or something like that, which is almost certainly not the case. Commented Feb 29 at 14:24
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    @leftaroundabout - Younger people as a group are more conservative than older people as a group in Israel, on average. The cause is less relevant than the situation. But do bear in mind that religious conservative families have more children than average in most parts of the world, but only in a handful of countries, Israel among them, do young people as a group skew more conservative.
    – Obie 2.0
    Commented Mar 1 at 6:14
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Israel has already been in Gaza before, and, I assume, controlled this territory completely. Now they are fighting heavy fight just to get where they have already been, and that costs many lives and they reputation. It is not complex to understand why they do not want to repeat the same sequence of events over and over again.

One may argue that Gaza still was not a complete sovereign country with lots of restrictions from Israeli side, but likely there is no widespread belief that removing these restrictions would have resulted them not striking again and again till Israel is left with no other choice than the new military invasion.

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    I don't understand how this is answering the question. If anything, the recent events would tend to show that Israel's policy of avoiding the two-states solutions for the last ~15 years (discrediting PA, pursuing and encouraging colonization of the WB, funding Hamas against Fatah, favoring military response, denying peace initiatives, countering UN programs...) is no longer viable. So why would Israelians want to repeat the same sequence of events over and over again ?
    – Evargalo
    Commented Mar 1 at 9:49
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    @Evargalo People in groups do strange things. When a purported solution to something fails, one common response is to do that same thing, just harder. See also: The U.S. "war on drugs." Commented Mar 1 at 15:28
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Because since the 1993 Oslo accords, the two state solution, as (not) implemented, has delivered very little to both sides:

  1. Israelis have not become more secure from terrorism. They are more secure from neighboring states like Lebanon or Syria, but that is more "peace through superior firepower" than innate peace. Gaza, with its limited self-rule, is (much) more problematic to Israel than the West Bank.

  2. On the flip side, Palestinians have received very little in return for their recognition of Israel in 1992. Settlement have continued to expand and Palestinians in both the West Bank and Gaza live under miserable circumstances (their governments' numerous flaws do not help). Which makes some of them much more receptive to extremists and terrorism (GOTO 1. in a feedback loop).

Regular Palestinians have entertained unrealistic expectations such as the right of return to Israel proper (a non-starter for demographic reasons). Israel still gets vilified on the international stage on numerous occasions (though not always undeservedly, cough, the blockade, cough).

While Israel's politicians-in-powers have assiduously resisted implementing Oslo in good faith, a task in which they've been greatly assisted by Hamas' bloodthirstiness. And the shameful lack of Western pressure on Israel.

With a significant push towards breaking that deadlock by granting Palestinians proper autonomy within their lands and a (powerful, non-Israeli, non-UN) military oversight defanging militants in West Bank/Gaza areas both populations may start to find benefits where this cycle starts to unwind. But that's not where the current equilibrium point, ever more repression and intransigence is at.

Even pre-10/7, there was absolutely no reason Israel, especially given its fragile coalition system dependent on support from hard right parties, would have done much to enable a proper two state solution, unless pushed and prodded.

Post 10/7, expecting organic, democratic, Israeli support for a two state solution now is naive: things getting better would at best be years away, would require significant sacrifice before things get better and would easily be painted as rewarding Hamas aggression.

p.s. Israel did not leave Gaza "to be nice". They left unilaterally because its occupation was deeply unpopular with Israelis (almost 70% supported getting out at the time, IIRC).

p.p.s. And, yes, it's getting worse. Couldn't find it now, but there was an Economist article about 5-10 years back detailing how the younger Israeli generation polls much less favorably towards compromise than their elders.

p.p.p.s. Last, I think there is sometimes, in countries, a phenomenon of a local minima, where a country finds itself in an extremely unsatisfactory status quo, but is too traumatized and apprehensive to take a chance of changing their approach. For example, look at Argentina and what passes for economics there (yes, Milei breaks the mold, but his approach may be too extreme to work). The US and its health care system. Canadian housing.

Seems to me this is a bit where both populations, but specifically the Israelis as regards this question, are sitting at. They can't envision a better future from where they are sitting. That seems bizarre to outsiders, but is no less real to people caught in those traps.

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  • I fail to parse the "nice" comment. If you would cite the occupation of Gaza to be too expensive, or Israel getting something in return for withdrawing from Gaza, I would agree that this would mean "not nice". But answering to internal calls likely based on morality, translates for me to "being nice". Perhaps you are operating on some other unstated definition of what "being nice" means.
    – Colombo
    Commented Mar 4 at 0:04
  • Consider yourself in good company then. I have no idea what you tried to say. The reason I wrote that is because it's not infrequent to hear Israel's Gaza withdrawal talked about as "look, we did good and look what we got for it". Israel left for its own reasons, not "to be nice". Commented Mar 4 at 22:00
  • I will repeat it then: Please, define what "to be nice" means.
    – Colombo
    Commented Mar 4 at 22:22
  • Read the dictionary yourself. Commented Mar 4 at 22:23
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    Last time I checked a dictionary, it didn't contain word nice in the context of nation-states. So I interpret your last comment as being purposefully obtuse and trying to deflect your biases. Which is not something I would expect from someone calling themselves philosophers. Because again, many people would interpret withdrawing from Gaza as "being nice", since it didn't get anything in exchange.
    – Colombo
    Commented Mar 4 at 22:34

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