Jerusalemís Arabs: more prefer living in Israel to living in Palestine, reveals in-depth survey

Published: 16 June 2011
Briefing Number 287



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Summary:   Arabs who live in Jerusalem were recently surveyed to find out whether they would prefer living under Israeli sovereignty in the future, or living in a future Palestinian state. 

30% said that they would prefer Palestinian state citizenship.  35% said that they would prefer citizenship in Israel. The remaining 35% either declined to answer, or said that they did not know.  

The survey was carried out in November 2010 by the independent, US-based polling company the Pechter Middle East Polls, in conjunction with the Council on Foreign Relations.  These organisations are authoritative and non-partisan, and they used meticulous polling methods of the highest professional quality and integrity.  A Palestinian polling company conducted the field research. 

This Beyond Images Briefing reproduces key points from this path-breaking survey of opinion, which was published on 12 January 2011. The report is called ‘The Palestinians of East Jerusalem’: See www.pechterpolls.com.

Key messages:

- Israel is not an apartheid state. The Pechter survey results would simply be impossible if it were such a state.

- For all its limitations, Israel’s quality of life and freedoms have real appeal to Arabs.  More Jerusalem Arabs wish to live in Israel than to live in Palestine.

- It can certainly be argued that a united city of Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty would fulfil the freely expressed aspirations of Palestinian Arabs in Jerusalem, rather than suppressing them. This should be factored into final status peace negotiations.
 


Finding out more about the attitudes of East Jerusalem Arabs

On 12 January 2011, Pechter Middle East Polls, in conjunction with the Council on Foreign Relations, published ‘The Palestinians of East Jerusalem: What Do They Really Want?’.  The report can be accessed via the Pechter Polls website at
www.pechterpolls.com

The Executive Summary of the report states that: “relatively little research has been done on the Palestinian Arab population of East Jerusalem despite the city’s crucial political diplomatic and political importance and despite the fact that their situation differs in important ways from the situation of the Palestinian Arabs in the West Bank and Gaza.  When Israel took control of East Jerusalem and annexed it in 1967, it made its residents ‘Israeli permanent residents’ (“blue card holders”). Permanent residents in Jerusalem can routinely work and travel in Israel, receive the same national health care benefits received by Israeli citizens, receive the same retirement, unemployment and disability benefits, and have the right to vote in Jerusalem municipal elections.  Palestinian Arabs in the West Bank and Gaza do not receive any of these benefits” [Israel Arabs do, of course – Beyond Images]

Who was surveyed by Pechter?

The survey explored the attitudes of Palestinian Arabs living in all 19 neighbourhoods of East Jerusalem, including the Old City of Jerusalem, Silwan, At-Tur, Shuafat, Isawiyya, Bet Safafa, Jabel Mukaber, and Wadi al-Goz.  

Who conducted the survey?  And what methodologies did they use?

The principal investigator for the survey was Dr David Pollock, a senior analyst at the Washington Institute thinktank, and an adviser to Pechter Polls.  He previously worked in the US State department.  Field work for the poll was conducted by a West Bank-based Palestinian polling firm called the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion, heading by Dr Nabil Kukali.  Pechter Polls was founded in 2009 by Adam Pechter, who has overseen and managed national opinion polls in the Arab world, including Iraq, Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia.  Pechter previously worked as deputy publisher of the ‘Middle East Quarterly’, and worked with former US Ambassador to Egypt and Israel Dr Daniel Kurtzer.

The poll used methods of the highest reliability, professional quality and integrity.  The report explains the methods used. 

A representative sample of 1039 East Jerusalem Arabs were interviewed at home, face-to-face.  The margin of error in the findings is 3%.    

The preferences of East Jerusalem Arabs for citizenship

The key finding of the report is that when East Jerusalem Arabs were asked if they preferred to become a citizen of Palestine, with all of the rights and privileges of other citizens of Palestine, or a citizen of Israel, with all of the rights and privileges of other citizens of Israel, 30% chose Palestinian citizenship.  35% chose Israeli citizenship and 35% declined to answer or said that they did not know. 

Furthermore, when asked if they would move to a different home inside Israel, if their Jerusalem neighbourhood became a part of Palestine, 40% said they were likely to move to Israel.  27% said that they were likely to move to Palestine if their neighbourhood became part of Israel.  

The total Arab population of East Jerusalem in 2007 was approximately 260,000 people.  The Pechter finding means that, if it came to it, 104,000 Palestinian Arabs, in Jerusalem alone, would be prepared to move to a different home in the future, to ensure that they remained inside Israel.   

The main reasons for this Palestinian Arab preference

The Arabs surveyed were asked to provide the main reasons for their preference. 

The top three reasons given for choosing Israeli citizenship were freedom of movement in Israel, higher income and better job opportunities, and Israeli health insurance.     

The Pechter findings are consistent with other, earlier findings

These findings are consistent with earlier indications that Arabs living in East Jerusalem have a sense of connection to Israel: see Beyond Images Briefing 209: ‘Arabs of Jerusalem express attachment to Israel’ (13 December 2007). 

What concerns Jerusalem’s Arabs about becoming Israeli citizens?

Of course, there are serious and substantial concerns on the part of Jerusalem’s Arabs about living in Israel and these survey findings should not be used to belittle them.  

The participants were asked to identify their key concerns in becoming Israeli citizens, and they cited:

- possible discrimination,
- losing access to land, relatives and friends in Palestine, and
- possible moral misconduct of their children.

Key messages

- Israel is not an apartheid state.  The Pechter survey results would simply be impossible if it were such a state.

- For all its limitations, Israel’s quality of life and freedoms have real appeal to Arabs.  More Jerusalem Arabs wish to live in Israel than to live in Palestine   

- It could certainly be argued that a united city of Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty would fulfil the freely expressed aspirations of Palestinian Arabs living in Jerusalem, rather than suppressing them.  This should be factored in to final status peace negotiations in the future.          

Some related Beyond Images Briefings

Beyond Images Briefing 254 (17 April 2010)
Jerusalem: the battle over facts, history and context

Beyond Images Briefing 209 (13 December 2007)
Arabs of Jerusalem express attachment to Israel

Beyond Images Briefing 219 (2 August 2008)
77% of Israeli Arabs prefer Israel

Beyond Images Briefing 82 (21 March 2004)
Living in Israel or in a Palestinian state? Israeli Arabs express their view