Friday, 2 June 2017
Refugee issue could swing support for a peace deal
The question of compensation for Jews from Arab countries could be decisive in securing an Israeli majority in favour of a final-status peace agreement with the Palestinians.
According to a poll conducted by the Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Research and the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion, a startling 40 percent of those who opposed the parameters of a peace deal would switch to supporting it if the issue of Jews from Arab countries were on the table.
The poll surveyed close to 2,500 Palestinians and Israelis on the parameters of a final-status peace agreement. It presented a “permanent agreement package” based on mutual recognition between Israel and Palestine; establishing a demilitarized Palestinian state within 1967 borders, annexing a number of settlement blocs to Israel in exchange for land swaps, and turning West Jerusalem into Israel’s capital and East Jerusalem into the capital of Palestine. Palestinian refugees will have the right to return to the Palestinian state; 100,000 of them will return to Israel as part of a family unification program, while the rest will be monetarily compensated. This was the "plan" presented during the interviews:
Forty-eight percent of Israelis (41 percent of Jews and 88 percent of Arab citizens) and 42 percent of Palestinians in the occupied territories said they support this outline.
The poll also included “incentives” to understand what influences the views of both sides on a potential agreement. One was: And if the Jews who left their homes and property in the Arab countries when they had to leave following the 1948 War and the establishment of the state of Israel will be compensated for the lost assets left behind? If 40 percent of Jewish Israelis who opposed the agreement were willing to change their minds if the agreement also includes compensation for Jewish refugees from Arab countries, this incentive would 'tip the scales'.
Stan Urman, executive director of Justice for Jews from Arab Countries, calls the finding 'astonishing.' He points out that it that more Israelis chose this incentive than any other, more than 'Israel being recognized as a Jewish state' and even 'access to Jerusalem's Jewish holy sites.'
"Without this clause, " says Dr Urman, " there is no majority in favour; with it, a strong majority of Israelis would support the peace agreement."
As the poll was funded by the EU, Dr Urman is confident that JJAC could now approach European countries and show them their own statistics which reveal that rights for Jewish refugees from Arab countries are central to acceptance of any peace agreement by Israel and Israelis.