Palestinian public divided on resumption of peace negotiations - Foundation Office Palestinian Territories
Main Findings: Palestinians belief majority would approve a peace agreement in a referendum
Findings show that the Palestinian public is divided almost equally over President Abbas’ decision to resume direct bilateral negotiations with Israel. Moreover, despite the vital importance attached by the public to the issue of prisoners’ release, a larger percentage gives greater priority to the two combined issues of the 1967 borders and settlement freeze. Furthermore, the lack of enthusiasm for return to negotiations seems to be driven by the belief of a large majority that the current round of talks will fail just like previous rounds. But if negotiations do succeed and an agreement is reached, the public believes that a majority of the Palestinians will approve it in a referendum.
A majority does not expect to see any positive development during the period of negotiations; only a quarter to a third expects improvement in economic conditions, reduction in settlement activities, or decrease in the number of checkpoints and other Israeli restrictions in the West Bank. Perhaps because of all of this, a majority supports waging popular non-violent resistance, side by side with negotiations. Indeed, two thirds want to go now to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in order to stop settlement construction even if such a step leads to suspension of Israeli transfer of revenues to the PA and a halt to prisoners’ release. It is worth mentioning in this regard that on the 20th anniversary of the Oslo Agreement, less than a third of the public views it as having served vital national interests of the Palestinian people with a majority believing that the accord has in fact damaged those interests and that the PA should stop implementing it.
Findings also show that the latest developments in Egypt, including the change of the president and government, increase doubts about the future of reconciliation and reunification of the West Bank and the Gaza Stip. Optimism about unity has in fact reached the lowest level since the split in 2007. Findings also show that two thirds of the public believe that the change in Egypt will weaken Hamas’ authority in the Gaza Strip. Moreover, perhaps due to the partial closure of the Rafah crossing, the Egyptian army’s closure of the tunnels, and Hamas’s reaction to the change in Egypt, the percentage of positive evaluation of conditions in the Gaza Strip has decreased significantly. Positive evaluation of the performance of the government of Ismail Haniyeh has also dropped. But findings do not show a decrease in the likely vote for Hamas in the West Bank or in the Gaza Strip if elections are held today.
We asked the public about its views regarding developments in Egypt and Syria and regarding relations with Jordan. Findings show that about two thirds view change in Egypt negatively while less than a quarter sees it as good for Palestinians. Perhaps this reaction is driven by the fact that change in Egypt has led to the closure of the tunnels and the Rafah crossing leading to substantial hardships. On Syria, we found that despite the belief of the majority that the Assad regime was the one that used the chemical weapons against Syrian civilians, two-thirds oppose an American military strike against the Assad forces. The opposition to the strike might be due to the belief of many Palestinians that the strike would target Syria more than the Assad regime. Finally, with regard to relations with Jordan, findings show a reduction in support for a Palestinian-Jordanian confederation compared to the level of support obtained three months ago. It should be noted that support for the confederation increased last June in the aftermath of the signing of the holy places agreement, an agreement that was supported by a majority of the public at that time.
Presidential and Legislative Elections: Barghouti would win elections
- If new presidential elections are held today and only two were nominated, Abbas would receive the vote of 51% and Haniyeh 42% of the vote of those participating. The rate of participation in such elections would reach 63%. Three months ago, Abbas received the support of 49% and Haniyeh 44%. In this poll, in the Gaza Strip, Abbas receives 45% and Haniyeh 50% and in the West Bank Abbas receives 55% and Haniyeh 37%.
- If presidential elections were between Marwan Barghouti and Haniyeh, the former would receive 58% and the latter would receive 35% of the participants’ votes. The rate of participation in this case would reach 71%. In our June poll Barghouti received 57% of the vote and Haniyeh 36%.
- If presidential elections were between three: Mahmud Abbas, Marwan Barghouti and Ismail Haniyeh, Barghouti would receive the largest percentage (35%) followed by Haniyeh (33%), and Abbas (27%). The rate of participation in this case would reach 75%. In our previous poll last June, the results were identical to the current findings.
- If new legislative elections are held today with the participation of all factions, 71% say they would participate in such elections. Of those who would participate, 31% say they would vote for Hamas and 38% say they would vote for Fatah, 10% would vote for all other third parties combined, and 22% are undecided. Vote for Hamas in the Gaza Strip stands in this poll at 39% and in the West Bank at 25%. Vote for Fatah in the Gaza Strip stands in this poll at 38% and in the West Bank at 39%. These results indicate a decrease in support for Fatah and stability in the vote for Hamas.
Domestic Conditions: Perception of positive conditions in the Gaza Strip decreases dramatically
- Positive evaluation of conditions in the Gaza Strip drops dramatically from 36% three months ago to 21% in this poll while 55% say conditions are bad or very bad.
- Positive evaluation of conditions in the West Bank remains almost unchanged compared to three months ago standing today at 29%. But the percentage of those who believe conditions in the West Bank are bad or very bad increases from 37% to 44% during the same period.
- Perception of corruption in PA institutions in the West Bank stands at 79% in this poll. Perception of corruption in the public institutions of Hamas’ Gaza government stands at 66%.
- 20% say there is, and 41% say there is to some extent, press freedom in the West Bank. By contrast, 16% say there is, and 33% say there is to some extent, press freedom in the Gaza Strip.
- 31% of the Palestinian public say people in the West Bank can criticize the authority in the West Bank without fear. By contrast, 24% of the public say people in the Gaza Strip can criticize the authorities in Gaza without fear.
- Perception of safety and security in the West Bank stands at 55% and in the Gaza Strip at 55%. Three months ago these percentages stood at 64% in the Gaza Strip and 56% in the West Bank.
- Findings show that the percentage of Gazans who say they seek immigration to other countries stands at 45%; in the West Bank, the percentage stands at 26%. Last June these percentages stood at 42% and 27% respectively.
- Positive evaluation of the performance of the Haniyeh government stands at 36%. Three months ago it stood at 41%. Positive evaluation of the government of Rami al Hamdallah in the West Bank stands today at 29%.
- Percentage of satisfaction with the performance of President Abbas remains unchanged at 49%. Dissatisfaction with the performance if the president stands today at 48%.
Reconciliation: Majority beliefs events in Egypt deteriorate chances of reunification of the Gaza
Strip and the West Bank
- Given the developments in Egypt and the ups and downs in the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation dialogue, percentage of optimism about the chances for reunification of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip drops to the lowest level since the split in 2007, standing today at 12%. The belief that unity is impossible and that two separate entities will emerge increases from 36% three months ago to 41% in this poll. 42% believe that unity will be restored but only after a long time.
- 57% believe that the latest development in Egypt reduces the chances for reunifying the West Bank and the Gaza Strip while 14% believe it increases those chances and 25% believe it makes no difference.
- 67% believe that the Egyptian developments will weaken Hamas’ authority in the Gaza Strip while 10% believe they will strengthen it and 20% believe they will leave no impact on that authority.
- We asked respondents about conditions under which they believe reconciliation cannot succeed. About three quarters believe that reconciliation will not succeed without first ending the restrictions on freedoms enjoyed by supporters of Hamas in the West Bank and a similar percentage (75%) believes that it will not succeed without ending restrictions on freedoms enjoyed by supporters of Fatah in the Gaza Strip. Similarly, 67% say it will not succeed without first agreeing on an election date; 65% say it will not succeed if Hamas continues to reject agreements signed by the PLO with Israel; 63% say it will not succeed if security coordination with Israel in the West Bank continues; another 61% say it will not succeed if the PA continues to recognize Israel and the Oslo agreements; and 56% say it will not succeed as along as Hamas insists on keeping its al Qassam armed wing in the Gaza Strip.
- The largest percentage (36%) believes that the PA, with its parts in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, has become a burden on the Palestinian people and 30% believe that it is an accomplishment for the Palestinian people. Furthermore, 15% believe that the PA in the West Bank is an accomplishment while the PA in the Gaza Strip is a burden. By contrast, a similar percentage (13%) believes that the PA in the Gaza Strip is an accomplishment while the PA in the West Bank is a burden.
- 56% regard the Gaza Strip as an Israeli-occupied territory, just like the West Bank. But 19% consider it a liberated area and 25% consider it semi-liberated and semi-occupied. Belief that the Strip is liberated or semi liberated increases in the Gaza Strip, reaching 58%, and decreases in the West Bank, standing at 35%.
- More than three quarters of the public (77%) support the continued payment of salaries to Gaza Strip employees who used to work for the PA before the split in 2007. 20% believe that the PA should stop the payment.
- The public is split over the necessity of holding separate elections in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip if the current disunity continued for a long time: 47% believe it to be necessary to hold such separate elections and 50% believe it to be unnecessary.
Majority regards end of Israeli occupation as most vital Palestinian goal and the main problem
- 45% believe that the first most vital Palestinian goal should be to end Israeli occupation in the areas occupied in 1967 and build a Palestinian state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip with East Jerusalem as its capital. By contrast, 29% believe the first most vital goal should be to obtain the right of return of refugees to their 1948 towns and villages, 16% believe that it should be to build a pious or moral individual and a religious society, one that applies all Islamic teachings, and 11% believe that the first and most vital goal should be to establish a democratic political system that respects freedoms and rights of Palestinians. Three months ago, 42% said ending occupation and building a state was most vital goal and 34% said the most vital goal was the right of return.
- The most serious problem confronting Palestinian society today is the spread of poverty and unemployment in the eyes of 28% of the public while 23% say it is the continuation of occupation and settlement activities; 19% believe the most serious problem is the absence of national unity due to the West Bank-Gaza Strip split, 16% believe the most serious problem is corruption in some public institutions, and 9% believe it is the siege and the closure of the Gaza border crossings.
Peace process and resumption of negotiations: Palestinians are split over renewal of negotiations
- The public is split over the decision by president Abbas to return to direct bilateral negotiations with Israel: 47% support the decision and 49% oppose it. Opposition increases to 61% in the Gaza Strip and decreases to 43% in the West Bank. But 60% believe that the president has made the right decision by agreeing to suspend for nine months Palestinian application to join more international organizations in return for Israeli release of 104 prisoners. 34% believe he made the wrong decision.
- But public’s attitude regarding going to the ICC is different: 67% support and 28% oppose submitting a complaint to this international organization against Israeli settlements even if such a step leads to suspension of Israeli transfer of customs’ revenues and a halt to prisoners’ release.
- We asked the public about its views regarding the most important condition for return to negotiations: 31% selected the release of prisoners, 28% selected an Israeli acceptance of the 1967 lines as a basis for negotiations, and 14% selected an Israeli settlement freeze. 24% said they oppose resumption of any negotiations.
- Only 26% believe that the Palestinian and Israeli negotiators will succeed in reaching an agreement and 70% believe they will not succeed. Only 32% expect negotiations to last for nine months, as planned.
- But if the two sides succeed in reaching a peace agreement and president Abbas asked the public to vote for it in a referendum, a majority of 53% believes that most of the public will vote to approve it and 37% believe most will vote against it.
- Public expectations regarding likely developments during the period of negotiations are not positive: only 31% expect an improvement in economic conditions, only 15% expect a reduction in settlement activities, 27% except a reduction in the number of checkpoints and other Israeli restrictions in the West Bank, only 26% expect increase in the efforts to isolate Israel at the international arena, and only 40% expect a rise in international support for the Palestinians.
- A majority of 51% support and 48% oppose the two-state solution. Similarly, 52% support the Saudi peace initiative and 45% oppose it. But only 40% support and 58% oppose a mutual recognition of Israel as the state for the Jewish people and Palestine as the state for the Palestinian people after reaching a peace agreement.
- 59% believe that the two-state solution is no longer practical due to settlement expansion and 36% believe it is still practical since settlements can be dismantled. Despite this finding, only 29% support a one-state solution in which Arabs and Jews enjoy equality; 70% oppose it.
- 72% believe that the chances for a Palestinian state to emerge alongside Israel in the next five years and slim to non-existent while 26% think the chances are medium or high.
- Despite the return to negotiations, 60% support resort to popular non-violent resistance and 39% oppose it. By contrast, only 36% support dissolving the PA, 35% support return to armed intifada, and 26% support abandoning the two-state solution in favor of one-state solution.
- On the 20th anniversary of the Oslo agreement, 59% believe that the accord has damaged vital Palestinian national interests while only 29% believe that it served those interests. Belief that the Oslo agreement has served national interests is higher in the Gaza Strip (34%) compared to the West Bank (27%). Findings also show that 60% oppose the continued implementation of the Oslo agreement; only 31% support its continued implementation.
- 76% are worried and 24% are not worried that they or members of their families would be hurt by Israelis or their land confiscated or homes demolished. Furthermore, 59% believe that Israel’s long term goal is to expand its borders to include all territories between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea and expel their Palestinian population and 21% believe that Israel’s aim is to annex all occupied territories while denying Palestinians their political rights. Only 19% believe that Israel’s long term aspiration is to withdraw from all or parts of the 1967-occupied territories after ensuring its security. With regard to Palestinian long term goals, 66% believe that the goal of the PA and the PLO is to recover parts or all of the land occupied in 1967 while 12% believe the goal is to defeat Israel and recover the land occupied in 1948 and 10% believe the goal is to defeat Israel and destroy its Jewish population.
Developments in Egypt and Syria and relations with Jordan: 51% belief Syrian regime used
chemical weapons – Possible U.S. attack without support
- 41% say they sympathize with president Morsi and the Muslim Brothers in Egypt while 27% say they sympathize with the army and the current government and president. Sympathy with Morsi and the Brothers increases in the Gaza Strip (46%) compared the West Bank (38%). Furthermore, 65% regard the change in Egypt which led to the dismissal of Morsi as bad for Palestinians while 22% view it as good for Palestinians.
- A majority of 52% believes that it was the Syrian regime that used chemical weapons against Syrian civilians while 20% believe it was the Syrian opposition that used them. Two thirds of the public oppose and 29% support a limited American military attack against the Assad forces even if it is proven that it was the Assad regime that used the chemical weapons.
- Findings show an increase in opposition to a confederation with Jordan from 40% three months ago to 48% in this poll. The current percentage of opposition is similar to those obtained in previous years: 49% in 2008 and 52% in 2007. 25% support a confederation with Jordan now and 19% support it if established in the future after the end of occupation and the establishment of a Palestinian state.
For further details, contact PSR director, Dr. Khalil Shikaki, or Walid Ladadweh at tel 02-296 4933 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This PSR Poll has been conducted with the support of the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung in Ramallah.