If those who think that the wishes of Jews are not as important as the infinitesimal chance of peace that dividing Jerusalem would supposedly create, what about the wishes of the Arabs of Jerusalem?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 recognizeEast 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."