JERUSALEM — A poll suggests that a plurality of Jerusalem Palestinians would rather remain in Israel even after a peace deal and the creation of a Palestinian state.
The survey released this week shows that 35 percent of Jerusalem's Palestinian residents would choose Israeli citizenship over Palestinian citizenship. Thirty percent said they preferred Palestinian citizenship, while another 35 percent said they did not know.
Respondents who chose Israeli citizenship cited freedom of movement, higher income and Israeli health insurance as the reasons behind their choice.
Pollsters from Pechter Middle East Polls and the Council on Foreign Relations, a U.S. think tank, interviewed 1,039 people. The margin of error for the survey, which was released Wednesday, was 3 percentage points.
Israel captured east Jerusalem from Jordan in the 1967 Mideast war and annexed it shortly after, giving Israeli ID cards to its Palestinian residents. The international community does not recognize Israel's claim on the city.
Since the annexation, Palestinians in east Jerusalem have had the option of taking Israeli citizenship, although few have done so in a society where even cooperating with the Jewish state – much less adopting its citizenship – is considered taboo.
East Jerusalem Palestinians have generally lived under permanent resident status, and only a few hundred each year typically have applied for Israeli citizenship. In recent years, however, there has been a steady increase.
Over the past five years, about 3,000 Palestinians applied for Israeli citizenship, and about 2,300 received it, according to the Israeli Interior Ministry. The number of Palestinians granted Israeli citizenship has increased each year during that time, from 147 in 2006 to 690 in 2010.
Interior Ministry spokeswoman Sabine Hadad said about 13,000 of east Jerusalem's Arab residents, or roughly 5 percent, now hold Israeli citizenship.
Though the numbers are meager compared with the total 260,000 Palestinians who live in east Jerusalem, they may indicate an undercurrent of concern about the future.
Hatem Abdel Qader, a former Palestinian minister of Jerusalem affairs, doubted the credibility of the poll and dismissed it as meaningless.
"The Israeli occupation is not subjected to the desires of people, it's only subjected to legal rights and not to public opinion," he said. "Anything aimed at strengthening the Israeli occupation on Jerusalem is void and contradicts international law."