Presentation of recent polls: Israeli and Palestinian Leaders’ Policy Dilemmas – Can They Deliver? - Foundation Office Palestinian Territories
The workshop focused on the dilemmas of Israeli and Palestinian policy leaders, mainly the poor confidence from their population and the resulting challenges Mahmoud Abbas and Ehud Olmert are facing. Electors expressed their lack of confidence in such a dramatic way that it almost values diplomatic methods as unrewarding, thus making the current situation much more difficult for the politicians than the circumstances Arafat and Barak were facing during the Camp David negotiations in 2001.
The Director of the PSR in Ramallah, Dr. Khalil Shikaki, explained that the Palestinians had lost their confidence in the leadership of both parties, Hamas and Fatah. About 11 % of the moderate supporters turned down the Hamas party, thus leaving its support mostly to the radical fundamentalists. In addition, the conflict has been going on for a long time and people lost their faith that a solution could be found in the nearby future. They would rather believe that peace negotiations would take an extensive amount of time. “What we are facing is a dark future leaving our leaders with almost impossible changes and very little alternatives”, he summed up the current situation.
Advocate Dov Weisglass, former senior adviser to former Prime Minister Sharon, underlined the importance of going beyond academic reasons and analysis. “Our current problems are not a question of a formal peace treaty but of the reality. Suicide bombers do not take orders from political authorities or feel obliged to a peace treaty”, he explained the dilemma of the limited effectiveness of peace negotiations.
Former Member of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) and Editor of the Palestine-Israel Journal (PIJ), Ziad Abu Zayyad, agreed with Weisglass on the gap between theory and reality. Rather than making formal peace treaties, he asked Israel to remain committed to its statement to ease the living conditions of the people in the Palestinian Autonomous Territories. “If people feel that their living conditions are improving, they will not see violence as a last resort any more”, he stated.
Dr. Yaacov Shamir from the Department of Communication and Journalism at Hebrew University (HU) and the Truman Institute, focused on last years’ Lebanon War. In his opinion, the media instruments in Israel had treated the Lebanon war as a conflict between Israel and Hezbollah and didn’t mention it as a result of the lacking peace treaty with Syria and Lebanon. “Therefore, only 45% of the Israelis are ready to give up the Golan Heights as a price for peace with the Syria”, he explained. On the other hand, he stated that 46% of the Israelis believed that another war with Syria or the Lebanon is likely to happen in the near future.
Akiva Eldar, senior political columnist at Ha’aretz, also commented the results of the poll. “The conflict has been going on for so long that it is understandable that people lost their faith in their leaders and serious mistakes have been done on both sides”. Yet Eldar didn’t want to agree on the general consensus of desperation. Negotiations are not hopeless, we just need the will to continue”, he concluded.