Two States for Two People? A Long Decline in Support

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Dr. William Cubbison presents an overview of the level of Jewish support in the 25 years since the signing of the Oslo Accords.

After Signing Oslo Peace Accords | Shutterstock

For the past few decades, support and opposition to a two state solution has been a fault line dividing people and parties in Israel.

In the 25 years since the signing of the Oslo Accords, the level of Jewish support has fluctuated. The lowest point of support was found in the February 1995 Peace Index, when just 37% of respondents supported two states. Support slowly grew, despite meaningful drops at specific points such as 1998 and 1999, until reaching a high of 70% support in the June 2007 Peace Index.All survey results presented are based on the Tel Aviv University and the Israel Democracy Institute's Peace Index survey, conducted monthly since 1994. A question on Two States was not asked in all years. 

Following Prime Minister Netanyahu's key address in which he expressed support for a two state solution at Bar Ilan University in September of 2009, overall support for this solution reached 63% among Jewish Israelis. This address succeeded in moving a significant number of Likud voters to support two states, as can be seen in a graph below. However, since then support has fallen dramatically. In August 2018, support among Jewish Israelis had fallen to just 47%. This decline in Jewish support apparently mirrors Prime Minister Netanyahu's shifting position on the issue, as evidenced in the declaration by The Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely of the Likud in 2015 that his speech was "null and void."

Despite minor fluctuations over time, Arab Israelis have consistently expressed high support for two states since 2000.Surveys before 2000 did not include enough Arab respondents to accurately measure support for two states. Such support has not been unanimous, but reached over 90% in multiple surveys, and has averaged 80% in the last three. This high level of support has usually been 20-30 percentage points higher than Jewish- Israeli support for two states. It also stands in contrast to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, among whom support for two states is significantly lower

Support by Party

Political positions on security are a key distinction between left and right. It is not surprising that supporters of left and right wing parties have held consistently different views since 1994. The graph below shows support for two states among several Jewish parties over time.Responses have been combined for 1994-2008 for Moledet and Mafdal, which united to become the Jewish Home Party in 2008. Similarly, responses by Labor include large coalition parties such as the Zionist Union (2014-present) and One Israel (1999-2001). 

An important trend to note is the widening gap between supporters of these parties in the decade since Prime Minister Netanyahu's 2009 Bar Ilan speech discussed above. Support for two states among the three parties which currently sit in the government coalition (Jewish Home, Likud, and United Torah Judaism) has fallen significantly, and support among their voters has averaged just 36% (Likud), 16% (Jewish Home), and 19% (UTJ) in the last three surveys. At the same time, support among opposition supporters (Meretz and Labor) has remained high. In the last three surveys Meretz support has averaged 91% and Labor-- 87%.It is important to keep in mind when looking at this graph that due to the large number of parties in Israel, some of the fluctuation in responses is due to the small number of individuals voting for each party within any specific survey. 

Support by Religious Observance

Views on two states are also correlated with the level of religious observance level. Among Jewish Israelis in the August 2018 IDI Peace Index, 69% of secular Jews support two states, compared to just 36% of traditional Jews, 25% of religious, and 11% of ultra-Orthodox. 

Religious Identification Support Oppose Don't know
Secular 69 26 5
Traditional 36 54 11
Religious 25 71 4
Ultra-Orthodox 11 84 4
Total 47 47 7

The graph below presents the support over time for two states among Jewish Israelis, by levels of religious observance. The groups’ ranking in terms of the degree of support for the two-state solution has been roughly the same since 1994, with those defining themselves as ultra-Orthodox opposed to two states, and secular Israelis supportive. Interestingly, this graph brings to the fore the fact that the decline in support among Jews since 2009 has largely occurred among all groups except among secular Israelis. This is especially pronounced among traditional Jews, who were only 10 percentage points less supportive than secular Jews from 2003-2015, but who in the last two polls have averaged 36%, placing them much closer to religious and ultra-Orthodox Jews than to secular Jews, who averaged 70% in the last two surveys.

Support by Age

There are also large gaps in support for two states by age. As can be seen in the below table from the August 2018 IDI Peace Index, support among younger Jewish Israelis for two states is just 32%, as compared with 64% among older Israelis.

Age Support Oppose Don't know
(Jews only)    
18-34 32 59 9
35-54 47 45 8
55+ 64 33 3
Total 47 46 7

The graph below shows support among Jews for two states by age group over time. Until the beginning of the second intifada there were only slight differences in support among different age groups of Jewish Israelis. However, after 2007, a difference by age group became apparent, with younger Israelis less supportive of two states. This pattern has grown stronger since then. In the last three surveys, Jewish Israelis ages 18-34 have averaged more than 20 points lower support for two states than those over the age of 55.

Given that there is also a correlation between age and religious observance, with a large amount of research showing that for a variety of reasons, younger Jewish Israelis are more observant , it is possible that differences in religious observance underlies the opinion gap on two states between younger and older Israelis. However, a statistical analysis indicates that this is not the case. Even when controlling for level of religious observance, older Jewish Israelis are still more likely to support two states. The differences among age groups remain statistically significant after controlling for religious observance, and after taking into account the connection between religious observance and age. This data makes it clear that opposition to two states is stronger among young Israelis of all religious backgrounds compared to older members of their same religious streams.