- Negotiating Jerusalem
This book deals with perhaps the most difficult problem in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Based on parallel surveys conducted among Israeli Jews (1,530 face-to-face interviews; kibbutzniks and settlers were not included) and Palestinians (870 face-to- face interviews), the authors probe attitudes within the two communities regarding the ultimate status of the city of Jerusalem. The study is both intensive and extensive. The Jewish questionnaire comprised more than 100 questions, the Palestinian nearly 80. The focus was entirely on Jerusalem; the only consideration of other issues occurred in the context of conditions for negotiating an agreement on the city. Interviews were conducted in 1995 and 1996. Jerome Segal, who heads the Jewish Peace Lobby and is a Research Scholar at the University of Maryland, was apparently the leading scholar in the group; he was the only one who participated in both sets of interviews.
The authors claim that their study is unique, that it is “a major leap forward” in revealing public attitudes on Jerusalem, and that it provides “a comprehensive assess ment of the extent to which public opinion constitutes a barrier to the potential negotiability of the Jerusalem question” (p. viii). But the timing of both the interviews and the final publication weakens these claims. The interviews took place during a time of political turmoil, including the Rabin assassination and the 1996 election. Political developments, however, are mentioned only parenthetically. This is curious, since they clearly have an impact on public opinion. Indeed, the Peace Index, a continuing monthly survey conducted by Efraim Yaar and Tamar Hermann of Tel Aviv University, [End Page 145] has clearly shown the impact of events such as the assassination and the wave of suicide bombings which occurred during the 1996 election campaign. In fact, the authors enlarged the Israeli sample in order to allow comparison of those who were interviewed before the Rabin assassination with those who were interviewed after. The differences between these two groups are discussed only tangentially; it is noted that the assassination increased Israeli support for peace and openness to the other side, but not willingness to negotiate the status of Jerusalem.
The breakdown of negotiations at Camp David and the subsequent eruption of severe and persistent violence between Israelis and Palestinians further impairs the value of this study. This is underscored by the fact that both the breakdown of diplomacy and the outbreak of violence were triggered precisely by the issue of Jerusalem. We have, then, an interesting and skillfully crafted analysis of public attitudes as they stood at a particular point in time. This is of considerable value in its own right.
Segal and his colleagues find that on both sides of the fence there is strong opposition to compromise on Jerusalem. Large majorities, for example, are unwilling to accept any notion of shared control of the city. They do not recognize that the other side has legitimate rights to the city, nor do they even acknowledge that the city is important to their antagonists. However, when the issue is broken down into more discrete parts, such as the disposition of Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, the status of the Old City, the Temple Mount, the Western Wall, or a re-definition of the borders of the city, significant numbers respond more positively. Responses are also conditioned by such demographic and ideological factors as income, education, place of residence, religiosity, ethnicity, belief in the possibility of peace, and willingness to acknowledge the legitimacy of the antagonist as a political community. Not sur prisingly, party identification correlates strongly with these attitudes.
What this amounts to is that Israelis, for example, strongly support the peace process but have grave doubts about its results and adamantly oppose the creation of a Palestinian state or a negotiated settlement of the status of Jerusalem. As Elihu Katz puts it: “Israeli Jews want peace without Palestine, but fear they will get Palestine without peace” (p. 124). A similarly dismal picture emerges...