February 20, 2020 | By Dina Smeltz

Palestinians and Israeli Public Support for a Two State Solution Reach New Lows

Last Sunday at the Munich Security Conference, Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh described President Trump’s Middle East Peace Plan as “no more than a memo of understanding between (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu and Trump.” The plan would create a Palestinian state with limited sovereignty in parts of the West Bank while allowing Israel to annex its settlements in the occupied portions of the West Bank. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had declared the plan dead on arrival even before it was announced, and then stated upon its announcement that “after the nonsense that we heard today we say a thousand no’s to the Deal of The Century.” Meanwhile in Europe, a group of EU member countries had considered an initiative to recognize a Palestinian state but decided to hold off on any official resolutions until after Israeli elections. Haaretz reported that “there is concern” in Israel that some European countries may individually push for recognition of a Palestinian state.

While a 2019 Gallup survey found that American support for an independent Palestinian state has grown steadily since 2015 (to 50%), public opinion among Palestinians and Israelis seems to be going in the other direction. A new February 2020 survey conducted by the Ramallah-based Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR) after President Trump unveiled his plan found just 39 percent of Palestinians continue to support the concept of a two-state solution, down from 71 percent in 2006 and the lowest level since Oslo. At least nine in ten Palestinians opposed each of the components of Trump’s peace plan. And six in ten say that the two-state option is no longer practical due to the expansion of Israeli settlements.  

A 2018 survey conducted by the Tami Steinmetz Centre for Peace Research found that just 49 percent of Israelis supported two states, down from 68 percent in 2006.  On both sides, the most recent numbers available were the lowest since the Oslo accords in the 1990s. The Steinmetz Centre has since closed its doors, but a Dialog under survey cited in Haaretz, included a question with very different response options and found just 34 percent of Israelis naming two states as the preferred solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (19% one state, 9% confederation, 20% don’t know, 18% other).

Abbas declared that the Palestinians would resist the plan through “peaceful, popular means,” while Hamas said that “all options are open.” The PCPSR survey found 61 percent of Palestinians expect to see a return to armed struggle or intifada. In an interview with Vox’s Alex Ward, Ghaith al-Omari, senior fellow at the Washington Institute of Near East Policy, said that the short-term priority is to keep the lid on the security situation, and Arab countries can help to convince Abbas to maintain control. But he also said, “Today it’s clear the Palestinian public is checked out. But if history is any guide, this can very quickly turn into a crisis.”


The Chicago Council on Global Affairs highlights critical shifts in American public thinking on US foreign policy through public opinion surveys and research conducted under the Lester Crown Center on US Foreign Policy. 

The annual Chicago Council Survey, first conducted in 1974, is a valuable resource for policymakers, academics, media, and the general public. The Council also surveys American leaders in government, business, academia, think tanks, and religious organizations biennially to compare trends in their thinking with overall trends. And collaborating with partner organizations, the survey team periodically conducts parallel surveys of public opinion in other regions of the world to compare with US public opinion. 

The Running Numbers blog features regular commentary and analysis from the Council’s public opinion and US foreign policy research team, including a series of flash polls of a select group of foreign policy experts to assess their opinions on critical foreign policy topics driving the news.


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