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Posted at 12:00 AM ET, 01/12/2011

Why Palestinians want to be Israeli citizens

By Jackson Diehl

One of the givens of the Middle East peace process is that Palestinians are eager to be free of rule by Israel and to live in a state of their own. That's why a new poll of the Arabs of East Jerusalem is striking: It shows that more of those people actually would prefer to be citizens of Israel than of a Palestinian state.

The poll, conducted in November, may be something of an embarrassment to Palestinian political leaders, who lately have been insisting that Israel should stop expanding settlements in the eastern half of Jerusalem -- in effect giving up any claim to it -- as a precondition for the resumption of peace negotiations. This week the demolition of a hotel in an Arab neighborhood in preparation for the construction of Jewish housing prompted fresh criticism of Israel from Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, while a leaked memo from European Union diplomats stationed in the city proposed that EU governments recognize East Jerusalem as the capital of the future Palestinian state.

The awkward fact is that the 270,000 Arabs who live in East Jerusalem may not be very enthusiastic about joining Palestine. The survey, which was designed and supervised by former State Department Middle East researcher David Pollock, found that only 30 percent said they would prefer to be citizens of Palestine 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.) Forty percent said they would consider moving to another neighborhood in order to become a citizen of Israel rather than Palestine, and 54 percent said that if their neighborhood were assigned to Israel, they would not move to Palestine.

The reasons for these attitudes are pretty understandable, even healthy. Arabs say they prefer Israel's jobs, schools, health care and welfare benefits to those of a Palestinian state -- and their nationalism is not strong enough for them to set aside these advantages in order to live in an Arab country. The East Jerusalemites don't much love Israel -- they say they suffer from discrimination. But they seem to like what it has to offer. Remarkably, 56 percent said they traveled inside Israel at least once a week; 60 percent said access to its Mediterranean beaches was "very important" or "moderately important" to them.

"Quite clearly there is a discrepancy between people's attitudes and the assumption that Palestinian neighborhoods should be part of Palestine," said Pollock, whose work was sponsored by Pechter Middle East polls and the Council on Foreign Relations. "That's not actually what the people want."

It's important to note that East Jerusalem Palestinians are different from West Bank or Gaza Palestinians -- they live on Israel's side of its West Bank barrier and hold "blue cards" that allow them access to Israeli jobs, health care, and welfare payments. Many are middle class by Middle Eastern standards -- 44 percent of those surveyed had household incomes of more than $1,300 per month. Broadly, they resemble Israel's Arab citizens, who have also been shown in polls to prefer remaining in Israel to joining a Palestinian state.

The East Jerusalemites do have one thing in common with other Palestinians, as well as Israelis: They are pessimistic about the current peace process. More than 40 percent said that even if Israelis and Palestinians signed a peace deal and East Jerusalem became the capital of a new state, some Palestinian militants would certainly or probably continue an armed struggle against Israel. And fully 64 percent said it was very likely or somewhat likely that if the current negotiations collapse, there will be a new intifada, or uprising by Palestinians, including those in Jerusalem.

The bottom line messages seem to be that peace talks are essential to prevent violence, but that even success won't lead to total peace; and that a lot of Palestinians would prefer to live near, but not in, a Palestinian state.

By Jackson Diehl  | January 12, 2011; 12:00 AM ET
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Palestinians who are not ideologues want to be citizens of Israel, because the Israelis have a Democracy and are among the finest people in the world, while the Palestinians that support Hamas and killing Israelis are the scum of the earth. Israel took a desert and turned it into a paradise only marred by the Arabs who attack them daily. Palestinians are kept as victims by their rich Arab cousins to gain sympathy for their genocidal causes.

Posted by: LETFREEDOMRING2 | January 12, 2011 12:18 AM | Report abuse

The most egregious case of cultural imperialism is the artificial imposition of borders and nationalism on the Arab population and the Palestinians in particular.. by their "leaders" and the Western Liberals. These outsiders promote Palestinian Nationalism in the same breath that they criticize Zionism as racist/imperialist/nationalist. The truth is Palestinian people.. and Arabs in general, just want a better future for themselves and children.

Posted by: gstern1 | January 12, 2011 8:49 AM | Report abuse

The statement that "Palestinians want to become Israeli citizens" without severe qualifications, seems unlikely. Quite apart from the statistically-shown disinclination of many Muslims to seek naturalization in non-Muslim countries (viz. a EUROSTAT study of 1993 (Statistics in Focus, Population and Social Conditions, 95-11, “Acquisition of Citizenship by Naturalization in the European Union") and a Dutch Ministry of Justice report of the same year, "Motives for Naturalization"). While non-Israeli residents of East Jerusalem did not ipso facto become Israeli citizens upon the incorporation of that part of the city into Greater Jerusalem and Israel in 1967, bona fide residents have the option of obtaining Israeli nationality on demand. Approximately 8,000 non-Israeli Jerusalem residents had availed themselves of this option between 1967 and 1997, as I was informed on Jan. 13, 1997 by the Information Division, Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. (The international-law issues are complex, including the law of successor states and/or the law relating to occupying powers, and the general rule that, otherwise, nationality cannot be imposed on a person except at birth, adoption or (sometimes) marriage, without the consent of that person (or, if a minor, a parent). (To see how that works in the case of the USA see Treaty to Resolve Pending Boundary Differences and Maintain the Rio Grande and Colorado River as the International Boundary, 23 Nov. 1970, TIAS 7313, 23 UST 371, Art. VI, § B, protecting the status of any persons whose land was transferred. The rules and practice were different before the mid-20th Century.) There are also political and family reasons why many Palestoinian Jerusalemites travel on Jordanian passports of convenience or, perhaps, Palestinian travel documents even if they could have Israeli citizenship on demand.

Posted by: andygr | January 12, 2011 10:04 AM | Report abuse

Issues on the non-existent Arab Palestine
Issues on the mythical Arab Palestine
Deliberate Social Deprivation by “Friends.” How Arabs abuse so-called Palestinians.
On February 27, 2004, Reuters reported that people living in PA controlled areas are becoming increasingly critical of their leaders. This supports previous comments from the AP, late last year, that the Arab world is manipulating the Palestinian cause to the detriment of the people themselves. Reported again in the “LA Times”, on January 4, the article states that most Arab countries have denied citizenship, jobs and education to anyone claiming Palestinian ancestry. The article quotes 35-year-old Mohmoud Zahar: "We can't own a house, land or get a loan from the bank, despite the fact that I was born here (in Egypt) and have no idea what is Palestine”. A Cairo-based Palestinian writer, speaking in the same article says: "The language of the (Arab) governments and media is in one direction and the real practices on the ground are totally the opposite.”
Hisham Youssef, spokesman for the 22-nation Arab League, acknowledged that Palestinians live 'in very bad conditions,' but he said the policy is meant 'to preserve their Palestinian identity’. “If every Palestinian who sought refuge in a certain country was integrated and accommodated into that country, there won't be any reason for them to return to Palestine,” AP reported. Jordan would be a clear exception to this pan-Arab policy, where Palestinians are granted full citizenship and rights. As a result, except the 13% living in UNRWA camps, Palestinians are being progressively integrated into Jordanian society without international welfare subsidies. This would make sense because the Palestinians are Jordanians to begin with.
"The Palestinian people does not exist. The creation of a Palestinian state is only a means for continuing our struggle against the state of Israel for our Arab unity. In reality today there is no difference between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese. Only for political and tactical reasons do we speak today about the existence of a Palestinian people, since Arab national interests demand that we posit the existence of a distinct 'Palestinian people' to oppose Zionism.
"For tactical reasons, Jordan, which is a sovereign state with defined borders, cannot raise claims to Haifa and Jaffa. While as a Palestinian, I can undoubtedly demand Haifa, Jaffa, Beer-Sheva and Jerusalem. However, the moment we reclaim our right to all of Palestine, we will not wait even a minute to unite Palestine and Jordan." (PLO executive committee member Zahir Muhsein, March 31, 1977, interview with the Dutch newspaper Trouw.)
Denial of Basic Political Rights in the PLO Fantasy Land
Islamic fundamentalism threatens women all over the world. “Wherever they have gained power, Islamists have denied women their essential humanity and dignity.” The exponential growth of the global sex trade as an example.

YJ Draima

Posted by: renewableenergy2 | January 12, 2011 10:05 AM | Report abuse

Instead of a two state solution,perhaps the best course of action would be a one state solution.Call it Israel/Palestine.This country would respect and guarantee the rights of all the people:Jews,Muslims,and Christians.It would be a democracy based on the right of every individual to vote in free and fair elections.My guess is that if such a country were created and the various religious groups could reconcile,it would be an economic powerhouse and a beacon of hope for the world.Tragically such a one state solution will never occur because the religious/nationalist extremists on both sides will nver support such a resolution of this endless conflict.

Posted by: johnbird1 | January 12, 2011 10:13 AM | Report abuse

Of course Palestinians have real anxieties of living outside of Israeli control. They need only look at their cousins in the occupied areas, who have been at the tender mercies of the Israel military for decades and who live with no civil or human rights to see what their fate would be. Oppression, land theft, military attacks on civilians from Israel is what they fear. At least in Israel as second class citizens, they do not suffer what the Palestinians living in the occupied zones (and elsewhere in countries that Israel has attacked in the Mid-East) have to endure.

Posted by: donkris | January 12, 2011 10:16 AM | Report abuse

If I was a Palestinian living under the ghetto condition the Israeli's impose on them ,I'd want to be an Israeli citizen also. And since Israel has no intention to help the Palestinians gain a homeland (something the world did for the Israeli's), they don't have much choice do they? The Post continues it's apologist stance with Israel.

Posted by: jckdoors | January 12, 2011 10:47 AM | Report abuse

It would be interesting to see a poll asking how many Palestinians would prefer citizenship in Jordan to life in a projected Palestinian Arab state.

There is every reason to explore all possible options.

Posted by: Don53 | January 12, 2011 12:26 PM | Report abuse

What nonsense, Palestinians in East Jerusalem while heavily discriminated against by Israel are not subject random brutalization and imprisonment, not subject to constant check points and arbitrary killings by Israeli soldiers as found in the West Bank, not as subject to turning their institutions turned to rubble and not subject to crippling economic controls and taxes that are collected by a foreign power to subsidize their own subjection. As far as democracy goes the Palestinians had elections that were judged to be both fair and representative with turnout far in access of those typical of the US and Israel but not to the satisfaction of Israel or the US when Hamas gained control of the government. The US and Israel then started arming Fatah to overthrow the elected government which resulted in Hamas responding by taking over Gaza. I am no admirer of Hamas but to make this claim of democracy is rather hollow given the US and Israel's part in ensuring that an elected government can't rule. Even then with their handpicked ruler the Israel's fanaticism and greed does not stop them from grabbing more of what little land is left. The Israelis are so greedy that they don't seem to understand that their ongoing greed will result in all the Palestinians being in the same position as the Palestinians in East J. There will be no land left for them other than Israel.

Posted by: jonmce | January 12, 2011 2:42 PM | Report abuse

This is pretty interestin­g. It shows just how disconnect­ed from reality the Wash Post Anti-Israe­l Obsessives really are. It also shows the "ethnic cleansing" and other lies told by Palestinia­ns are just that; a lie. It should also cause the "one staters" to pause (it won't).

No one in their right mind would want to live under the thumb of a homophobic­, racist, sexist, honor-kill­ing promoting, misogynist­ic Arab dictatorsh­ip, most of whom are just one step away from an Iranian style theocracy and that entails. The Jerusalem Arabs, having a front row seat to Arab rule want nothing to do with it. Smart.

Posted by: Mendel | January 12, 2011 4:13 PM | Report abuse

Dear jonmce:

you say "...Israel's fanaticism and greed does not stop them from grabbing..."

and then, "The Israelis are so greedy..."

Don't you really mean that:

"The [Jews] are so greedy..."

and that

"...[Jewish] fanaticism and greed does not stop [Jews] from grabbing..."

Just curious if that clarifies your sentiments? If not, please do correct me.

Thanks in advance!

Posted by: FrumiousFalafel | January 12, 2011 9:26 PM | Report abuse

Wow. I didn't know that Arab East Jerusalem represented all of Palestine! Thank you Mr. Diehl, for making it so much easier for me to lump all Palestinians into one category and deny their aspirations for statehood without thinking too hard. I didn't even have to know anything about land and residency rights in Jerusalem.

Palestinians who hold Israeli citizenship enjoy more freedom and access to social services because Israel is the occupying force in East Jerusalem and more than half of the West Bank, not because the Palestinian Authority (which is a joke, because Israel still restricts its authority) is inherently incapable of providing for its people. Don't insult them by claiming they would rather be Israeli than Palestinian.

By the way, 35% said yes to Israeli citizenship. When I was in grade school, that didn't constitute a majority.

Here's the latest EU Envoy Report for info on East Jerusalem...

Posted by: Jamba18 | January 15, 2011 7:52 AM | Report abuse


Sometimes i think that after reading what you write, that we pay too high a price for free speech and liberty.
Could you not stifle yourself a bit?

Posted by: Mannymaccom | January 19, 2011 1:44 PM | Report abuse


It is at times like this when i read something that you have written that i think i pay too high a price for liberty and free speech.
Could you not stifle yourself?

Posted by: Mannymaccom | January 19, 2011 1:47 PM | Report abuse

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