WASHINGTON – The future of Jerusalem is considered one of the core issues in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and one of the most significant obstacles to a permanent agreement between the two sides. However, it appears that on the Palestinian side, those who live in Jerusalem have already made their decision on the matter – and the Palestinian Authority leadership in Ramallah may not like it.
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A public opinion poll carried out by American Pechter Middle East Polls for the Council on Foreign Relations together with the head of the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion, Dr. Nabil Kukali, showed that if Jerusalem were divided as part of a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, east Jerusalem Arabs would prefer to live under Israeli sovereignty.
The poll, which comprised the residents of east Jerusalem's 19 Arab neighborhoods, also pointed out that their opposition to Jerusalem's division is so intense that they would rather move to a new home within Israel's borders rather than live under the authority of a Palestinian state.
The study also showed that Jerusalem's Palestinian residents were interested in keeping their Israeli Identity cards and enjoying the State's health and social benefits. Some 35% of them said that Israeli citizenship is their preferred citizenship and only 30% chose to be citizens of the future Palestinian state. An additional 30% said that they didn't know, or preferred not to answer the question.
And what would the neighbors say? When asked "if most people in your neighborhood” would prefer to become citizens of Palestine or of Israel: 31% estimated that most people prefer Palestinian citizenship; 39% estimated that most people prefer Israeli citizenship; and 30% declined to answer or said they didn’t know.
It would seem that the residents of east Jerusalem are willing to pay a high price in order to carry the blue Israeli identity card: 40% said they would move in order to remain Israeli citizens if their neighborhood was transferred to Palestinian sovereignty. In contrast, only 29% said that if the opposite were to occur, and their neighborhood remained under Israel's authority they would move to an area under Palestinian authority.
In addition to the social benefits, those who chose Israeli citizenship most often mentioned freedom of movement in Israel, higher income and better job opportunities. Those who chose Palestinian citizenship overwhelmingly cited nationalism and patriotic reasons as their primary motivation.