Just days after the world erupted in anger over a construction project aimed at helping secure Israel’s control over the entirety of Jerusalem, a plurality of the Arab residents of the holy city said they want to remain under Israeli sovereignty.
A poll carried out by American Pechter Middle East Polls on behalf of the Council on Foreign Relations revealed that if Jerusalem were divided in a final status Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, most Arabs living on the Palestinian side would try to move to the Israeli side.
A 40 percent plurality said they would move anywhere else within Israel to retain their Israeli citizenship if their Jerusalem neighborhood became part of a Palestinian state. A 35 percent plurality said they far prefer Israeli citizenship to Palestinian citizenship. Thirty percent declined to answer the questions, likely out of fear that preferring Israel could put them in danger.
Those Jerusalem Arabs who said they want to remain Israeli cited a number of reason, including superior health care and social benefits, freedom of movement in Israel, and higher income and job opportunities.
The number of Arabs living in eastern Jerusalem and surrounding villages who are requesting Israeli citizenship has been increasing every year for the past decade.
When Israel reunited the city in 1967, the Arabs living on the eastern side were all given permanent residency status in Israel and were offered an upgrade to full citizenship. Very few chose to become citizens, confident that the city would fall back into Arab hands in the future, or fearful that identifying with Israel would put them and their families in danger.