Israeli Arabs 'would not live in a new Palestine'

By Nathan Jeffay, October 29, 2009
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A clear majority of Israeli Arabs do not want to be part of a Palestinian state, according to a new survey.

Some 64 per cent are against a settlement with the Palestinians which would involve redrawing borders in order to put some Israeli Arab towns in Palestine.

The majority explain that jobs and living standards are better in Israel and six per cent say they reject the idea because they have a separate identity to Arabs in the West Bank and Gaza.

The director of the poll, Shibley Telhami, a fellow of the Washington-based Saban Centre for Middle East Policy, said that viewed overall, the results present a picture of Israeli Arabs as “caught between multiple identities — Arab, Palestinian and Israeli”.

Al Jazeera is the most popular news source for Arab citizens of Israel

On the one hand, respondents were clearly uneasy with their Israeli identity. Pollsters asked Israeli Arabs to name two countries they think “pose the biggest threat to you”. The top two results were America and Iran, chosen by 36 per cent and 35 per cent of respondents respectively. Third place, with 34 per cent, was Israel.

Fifty six per cent said their rights in Israel are in decline and only 19 percent agreed that Israel has a right to call itself a Jewish state.

They get their information on the world from pro-Islamist sources: Al Jazeera is the most popular TV channel for news, watched by 48 per cent of respondents, while 13 per cent cited Hizbollah-run Al-Manar as their second choice. The world leader they admire most is Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan, who has been in conflict with Israel recently due to his harsh criticism of Israel since the Gaza war. In second place is Hizbollah secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah.

But on the other hand, the poll provided some indications that Israeli Arabs are keen on their country and its Jewish citizens, and absorb some of their opinions.

Interpersonal relations between Arabs and Jews appear to be less strained than many presume — 60 per cent of Israeli Arabs have Jewish friends and more than half of these are on visiting terms.

While attitudes towards America were negative, they were less negative than among Arabs elsewhere, indicating that the views of Jewish-Israelis have some influence. Prior to polling Israeli Arabs, Dr Telhami polled Arabs in Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Morocco and Lebanon.

Overall in these countries, less than five per cent of respondents were very favourable towards America; 15 per cent were somewhat favourable; 31 per cent were somewhat unfavourable and 46 per cent were very unfavourable.

Among Israeli Arabs, 20 per cent were favourable, 21 per cent somewhat favourable; 15 per cent somewhat unfavourable and 32 per cent very unfavourable.

    Last updated: 5:41pm, October 29 2009