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January 13, 2011

Washington Post: Arabs Say Make Mine Israel

Washington Post Deputy Editorial Page Editor Jackson Diehl notes a new poll of east Jerusalem Arabs indicating that “more of those people actually would prefer to be citizens of Israel than of a Palestinian state.”

In an online commentary (“Why Palestinians want to be Israeli citizens,” January 12), Diehl observes that a Pechter Middle East/Council on Foreign Relations survey conducted in November “may be something of an embarrassment to Palestinian political leaders .... The awkward fact is that the 270,000 Arabs who live in East Jerusalem may not be very enthusiastic about joining Palestine.” Among respondents, “only 30 percent said they would prefer to be citizens of Palestinian in a two-state solution, while 35 percent said they would choose Israeli citizenship. (The rest said they didn’t know or refused to answer.)”

The poll suggested that Arab residents of eastern Jerusalem “don’t much love Israel — they say they suffer from discrimination. But they seem to like what it has to offer.” This includes jobs, schools, health care and welfare benefits, says Diehl. The reality of a Jewish state in which Arabs live better than they do in most Arab countries, regardless of condemnations of Israel as “racist” and “apartheid,” outweighs nationalist attraction to a “Palestine” likely ruled by Fatah or Hamas.

This is not the first time Arabs indicated they might choose Israel over “Palestine.” A 2008 study by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, “Jerusalem: The Dangers of Division,”

noted
in its final two paragraphs:

“Eastern Jerusalem Arabs have a sense of national affinity with the PA [Palestinian Authority] and their brethren in the West Bank. Yet many will find it difficult to surrender their freedom of movement and expression, employment options, and the wide range of material benefits to which they are currently entitled by virtue of their resident status. They have expressed those feelings in many rounds of unofficial talks .... [A] survey showed the majority of eastern Jerusalem residents do not wish to leave Israeli rule.

“Zohir Hamdan, mukhtar (elected head) of Tzur Bachar village in eastern Jerusalem, requested a referendum among Arab residents as far back as 2000 on the subject of transfer from Israeli to Palestinian sovereignty [so they would have the chance to reject the possibility]. A public opinion survey conducted by the Palestinian delegation to the Geneva Initiative in 2003 found that 48 percent of Palestinians expressed a desire for Jerusalem to be an entirely open city, while 41 percent said they would make do with partial Palestinian sovereignty, and 35 percent were opposed to any form of division.”

It was right that The Post’s Web site took note of the poll. It would have been more pertinent if the newspaper’s foreign desk had covered it in print as a news story.

Posted by ER at January 13, 2011 04:17 PM

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