Tuesday, September 22, 2015

22-Sep-15: What do the Palestinian Arabs think?

Radical extremist? Or typical middle-of-the-road
man in the street? [Image Source]
A new made-by-Palestinian-Arabs poll of Palestinian Arab opinion offers some data-backed insights into what the people on the other side of the boundary say they feel when they are talking to their own rather than to the BBC or France24.

Some very current highlights about what the Palestinian Arabs (speaking to Palestinian Arab pollsters in the past week) say they think:
  • Two-thirds want Mahmoud Abbas to resign now. He is the long-serving head of Fatah, PLO and the Palestinian Authority whose term of office expired years ago. As for who should replace him, 32% say they want Marwan Barghouti, a convicted murderer serving a long sentence in an Israeli prison cell. 19% say Ismail Haniyeh who is a leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip. 8% say Rami Al Hamdallah, the current PA prime minister. Notably, the man frequently mentioned as the successor to Abbas, the PLO's perennial "chief negotiator" Saeb Erekat, scores a distant 4%.
  • No less than 59% of Palestinian Arabs hold the belief that Hamas won "the Gaza War", the pollsters' name for last summer's Operation Protective Edge. It's striking to us how the view they hold of the result depends in large measure on where they live. Notice: of the Arabs living in the Gaza Strip itself, who saw the action on their streets and through their windows, 42% say their side were the winners. But in Judea and Samaria, where the Arab experience of the fighting was entirely via television, Twitter and preachers in the mosques, 69% of them (meaning 65% more) imagine that in some sense, Hamas were victorious. Our interpretation: if they see themselves as winners, why would they want to make painful compromises for peace? They won't and they don't.
  • They are slightly less supportive of the so-called Two-State Solution than they used to be, and most of them are opposed. Support stands today at 48% (down by 3 points from three months ago). The EU and the White House probably want this number to be higher, given the direction of their pressure on Israel (and only Israel). But wishing and hoping and thinking and praying is not going to change Palestinian Arab public opinion - and especially not when the Palestinian Arab leadership is so fully heart-and-soul against compromise and for challenging Israel on every possible front.
  • When it comes to figuring out "the most effective means" of creating the first-ever Palestinian-Arab state, the greatest amount of support is for doing it by what the pollsters call "armed action". We have been seeing a significant uptick in that over the past two months. 24% of them say they support "popular non-violent resistance" as the most effective path to statehood, though it's far from clear whether they mean one Palestinian Arab state (presumably controlled by either Fatah or Hamas) or two (with one controlled by Fatah and one by Hamas, which is the status quo). And since their spokespeople routinely classify rock-hurling and firebombing of Israelis as non-violent, it's difficult to know whether there is any genuine support for negotiation and diplomacy among them.
  • Not surprisingly, given the ongoing incitement messaging from their political and religious leaders, violence continues to be highly regarded. 57% say they want a return to "an armed intifada". Now try to reconcile this with the finding that 63% of them support "a popular non-violent resistance". The pollsters did not consider this contradiction worthy of comment.
  • But they don't believe very strongly in their own abilities. Or maybe it's that they don't believe in their leaders. Despite their passion for more violence, nearly four-fifths of Palestinian Arabs say the chances of establishing a state (or two states) of their own co-existing with Israel at some point in the next five years are slim to non-existent.
Main takeaway (in our view): when columnists and analysts speak of the desire of Palestinian Arabs to live in peace, to get on with ordinary, quiet, constructive lives - as compelling as this interpretation is, the data don't support it. Anyone paying attention to the incitement pumped, generation after generation, into their communities and heads will not be surprised.

These results come from the most recent poll conducted by Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR) between 17 and 19 September 2015. The full report is here.

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