Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Palestinian Public Opinion

A year ago I went to hear Dr. Khalil Shikaki speak at the Notre-Dame de France in Jerusalem (the first place in Jerusalem to have electricity, a hundred years ago... but this has nothing do with anything). I have long considered Shikaki to be one of the most intelligent and careful analysts of Palestinian public opionion; he is the head of the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research. The Centre conducts opinion polls in the West Bank and Gaza every few months; it's a joint project with Truman institute (Hebrew University) which runs similar polls in Israel.

They just published the latest poll, conducted a month ago, and it brings interesting results.

* Hamas popularity increased since the elections.

* Only about half the people explained Hamas's victory as relating to its Islamic agenda; the other half said it was about Fateh's corruption.

* The majority (59%) opposes recognition of Israel under pressure from Europe and the U.S.,
BUT evern greater majority (75%) wants Hamas to negotiate with Israel, and two thirds would support recognition of Israel as "the state for the Jewish people" under a two-state solution!!!

Does it sound a bit contradictory?
My take is that Palestinians feel that Hamas recognition of Israel is an 'asset' which should not be given easily, and certainly not under international pressure (I think there national pride is playing here). But this is not because they have turned their back on negotiations and will accept nothing less than the destruction of Israel. The overwhelming support for negotiation is clear.

Last week I predicted a third Intifada coming soon. Does this poll prove me wrong? perhaps. The poll did not ask about support for armed actions against Israel, so it's hard to know if it's going up or not. At any rate it really depends on what happens in the next months. And as Iyad Barghouti (head of Rammallah Human Rights Centre) said this week to Bitter Lemons, if anyone in Israel has any illusions that destroying the Hamas PA (through embargo/military action) will create a more favourable situation, they better think again.


At 10:24 AM, Blogger Omar Barsawad said...

It won't work! Hamas can not be destroyed by force; on the cotrary - the more challenges Hamas faces the more support and sympathy it will continue getting not only from the Palestinians, but from the Arab and Muslim world. While Fatah will continue losing and be even more alienated.

Another Intifadah? Well, if the Palestinians continue being pressed economically - that could be their best option.

At 10:17 PM, Blogger chet said...

I am an outsider looking in but have to say I believe peace can be achieved if only both sides drop there pride and my country would take more interest in peace rather than just putting the blame on one side. Being from the outside looking in I am really glad to hear from those living in the area rather they are from Israel or Palestine. My heart goes out to the people of both Countries. I hope this makes sense as I have trouble clearly expressing things to clearly.


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