The Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PCPSR) released a new survey on Wednesday that painted a grim picture of a Palestinian public overwhelmingly supportive of violence towards Israel, with two-thirds believing that Israel will not celebrate its hundredth anniversary.
28% SUPPORT TWO-STATE SOLUTION; 52% CHOOSE WAR; 21% PROUD OF INTIFADA
According to the survey, support for a bilateral negotiated two-state solution stands at 28%, and opposition at 70%. Some 71% believe that the two-state solution is no longer practical or feasible due to the expansion of Israeli settlements. In comparison, 28% believe that the solution remains practical. Moreover, 78% believe that the chances of creating a Palestinian state alongside the state of Israel in the next five years are slim or nonexistent, while 19% believe the chances to be medium or high.
When asked about the most effective means of ending the Israeli occupation and building an independent state, the public split into three groups: 52% chose armed struggle (55% in the Gaza Strip and 49% in the West Bank), 21% preferred negotiations, and 22% chose “popular resistance.”
When asked what has been the most positive or the best thing that has happened to the Palestinian people since 1948, the largest percentage (24%) said that it was the establishment of Islamic movements, such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad (both classified as terrorist organizations) and their participation in “armed struggle.” 21% said the first and second intifadas were the most positive developments in Palestinian history since 1948.
PALESTINIAN HISTORY SINCE “NAKBA”
The poll was conducted on “the 75th anniversary of the Nakba” (Arabic for ‘catastrophe,’ referring to the Arab nations’ failure to annihilate Israel in 1948) and surveyed Arabs from the Gaza Strip and Judea and Samaria. 35% of respondents believed that the most damaging development since 1948 has been the split between Gaza and the “West Bank” (i.e., Judea and Samaria). Some 32% believed the most damaging development since 1948 was Israel’s 1967 “occupation” of the West Bank and Gaza in the 1967 Six-Day War.
Some 25% believed it was the “inability of the refugees to return to their homes and the unresolved nature of the refugee problem.”
It should be emphasized that the problem of “Palestinian refugees” is a matter of semantics. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) was established in 1949 solely to “support the relief and human development of Palestinian refugees,” using the universal and UN definition of ‘refugee’ as “people who have fled war, violence, conflict or persecution and have crossed an international border to find safety in another country.”
UNRWA later amended this to include the descendants of Palestine refugee males, including adopted children. This addition has led to a multigenerational status of Palestinian refugees. While about 750,000 Arabs fled Israel in 1948, there are 5.8 million Palestinians currently classified as refugees by UNRWA. In 2018, a State Department report disclosed by the Washington Free Beacon recorded that around 20,000 of the original refugees are still alive today.
In the PCPSR survey, only 7% of respondents believed that armed conflicts between Palestinians and Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon were the most damaging development during the past 75 years.
Approximately 3,414 Palestinians were killed in Syria between 2011 and 2016. In the 1970 conflict between the PLO and the Jordanian Hashemite government known as Black September, about 3,400 Palestinians were killed. It is believed that in 1983, the Lebanese Christian militia killed as many as 3,500 Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatila camps.
Some 18% said the most positive development was the establishment of the PLO. The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO, or Ashaf in Arabic) was founded in 1964 by Egyptian Yasser Arafat, with the expressed goal of using violence as the only acceptable manner of establishing a Palestine state in place of Israel. It was classified as a terrorist organization by most countries until the 1993 Oslo Accords, when the United Nations recognized the PLO as the only legitimate representative of the Palestinians.
When asked what has been the most positive or the best thing that has happened to the Palestinian people since 1948, the largest percentage (24%) said that it was the establishment of Islamic movements, such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and their participation in “armed struggle.” Some 21% said that it was the eruption of the first and second intifada.
14% said the establishment of the PA in the mid-nineties, and 9% said it was the establishment of Fatah in the sixties and the launch of the “armed struggle” (i.e., terrorism).
Some 64% of the respondents said they do not fear “a recurrence of the Nakba” (i.e., further expulsions of Arabs from Israel). In comparison, 33% say they fear it will happen again.
INTERNAL PALESTINIAN POLITICS: CORRUPTION AND LACK OF DEMOCRACY
In a question about the main problem confronting Palestinian society today, the most significant percentage, 25% (9% in the Gaza Strip and 35% in the West Bank), says it is corruption; 22% (30% in the Gaza Strip and 17% in the West Bank) say it is unemployment and poverty; 19% say it is the continuation of the occupation and settlement construction; 18% (30% in the Gaza Strip and 11% in the West Bank) say it is continued siege and blockade of the Gaza Strip; 10% say it is the split between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip; and 3% say it is the weakness of the judiciary and the absence of liberties, accountability, and democracy. Some 5% said it is internal violence, and 1% said it is the inadequate infrastructure.
It is interesting to note that more than 60% of Palestinians cited problems generated by their own governments as their primary concern. In contrast, only 28% cited issues that could be attributed to Israel.
Some 38% 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, 32% believe the first and most vital goal should be to obtain the right of return of refugees to their 1948 towns and villages, 15% believe that the first and most critical goal should be to build a pious or moral individual and a religious society, one that applies all Islamic teachings and 14% believes it should be to establish a democratic political system that respects freedoms and rights of Palestinians.
Interestingly, while most Palestinians see internal failures as their most significant problems, an almost equal percentage believe the most important Palestinian goals will come from demanding concessions from the Israeli government.
ISRAEL: MAJOR WORLD POWER BUT WILL CEASE TO EXIST IN LESS THAN 30 YEARS
In describing the standing of the State of Israel today, 42% said Israel is one of the most powerful countries in the world economically and militarily. By contrast, 35% (44% in the Gaza Strip and 28% in the West Bank) believe Israel is a weak and fragmented state on the verge of collapse. Some 21% believe it is normal, like most other small states worldwide.
The disparity between how the Palestinians in Gaza perceive Israel as compared to Palestinians in Judea and Samaria is great.
Despite a plurality of Palestinians perceiving Israel as powerful when asked whether Israel will celebrate its 100th anniversary, a majority of two-thirds (66%) says it will not do so. In comparison, 27% say it will, whereas 7% said they do not know.
When asked whether the Palestinian people will be able to “regain Palestine” and repatriate the refugees, a slim majority (51%) said this would happen, while 45% believed that this would not occur.
NO ONE WON THE WAR BETWEEN IDF AND GAZA
The most significant percentage of the Palestinian public, 32% (41% in the West Bank and only 18% in the Gaza Strip), believes that no side has won the recent rocket confrontations between Israel and the Gaza Strip. One quarter believes all armed resistance groups in the Gaza Strip have emerged victorious. Additionally, 19% think that Islamic Jihad has emerged victorious. In comparison, 6% believe Hamas has won, i.e., 50% of the public believes that the Palestinian side emerged victorious. By contrast, 14% (23% in the Gaza Strip and 9% in the West Bank) believe Israel has won.
MAJORITY WANT MORE TERRORIST GROUPS; 51% EXPECT ANOTHER INTIFADA
Some 71% of the public (79% in the Gaza Strip and 66% in the West Bank) say they are in favor of forming armed groups such as the “Lions’ Den” and the “Jenin Battalion,” which do not take orders from the PA and are not part of the PA security services; 23% are against that.
Nonetheless, 55% are worried that the formation of such armed groups could lead to armed clashes with the PA security services; 41% are not concerned.
A majority of 58% expect these armed groups to expand and spread to other areas in the West Bank; 14% expect Israel to arrest or kill their members; and 16% expect the PA to succeed in containing or coopting these groups.
A majority of 51% (54% in the West Bank and 47% in the Gaza Strip) expect security conditions in the West Bank to continue to escalate, leading to the eruption of a third armed intifada; 36% say they do not expect a third intifada.
Some 69% say they support the holding of presidential and legislative elections in the Palestinian territories shortly, while 28% say they do not support that. Demand for elections stands at 77% in the Gaza Strip and 63% in the West Bank. However, a majority of 67% believe no legislative or presidential elections will occur soon.
ELECTIONS: MAJORITY VOTE HAMAS
If new legislative elections were held today with the participation of all factions that participated in the 2006 elections, 66% say they would participate. Of those who would participate, 34% say they will vote for Hamas, 31% say they will vote for Fatah, 11% will vote for all third parties combined, and 23% are undecided.
31% say Hamas is most deserving of representing and leading the Palestinian people, while 21% think Fatah under President Abbas is the most deserving of representing and leading the Palestinians; 43% think neither side deserves such a role. Three months ago, 26% selected Hamas, 24% Fatah under Abbas, and 44% said neither side deserves such a role.
40% of West Bankers think people in the West Bank can criticize the PA without fear, while 55% think they cannot. In the Gaza Strip, 40% think people in the Strip can criticize Hamas’ authorities without fear, and 59% think they cannot.
In its assessment of the PA, most Palestinians (63%) view it as a burden on the Palestinian people. In comparison, 33% view it as an asset for the Palestinian people.
POLL: BIASED OR NOT?
The PCPSR is a Palestinian research organization and think tank based in Ramallah, mainly funded by the Ford Foundation and the European Union. Its reputation and inclinations are challenging to pin down. The Palestinian Authority has targeted the organization for being critical of the government, like a poll they released in 2015 revealing that eighty percent of Palestinians considered the PA to be corrupt. Similarly, a poll in 2017 found that seventy percent thought that PA President Mahmoud Abbas should resign. The PA has cracked down, requiring all Palestinian NGOs to register and report all their intended activities in advance.
The Director and Senior researcher, Dr. Khalil Shikaki, was born in Gaza. His older brother, Fathi, became a physician in Egypt and founded the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood with the goal of establishing a sovereign Islamic state across Israel. Toward this end, the PIJ has fired thousands of rockets at Israeli urban centers. Fathi was assassinated by Mossad agents in Malta in 1995.
The poll was conducted in cooperation with the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, a German political party foundation associated with but independent of the center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU). In 2020, it ranked 15th amongst think tanks globally. The CDU advocates for the creation of a Palestinian state within the borders of Israel and opposes the construction of Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria as a “violation of international law and an obstruction to peace.” At the same time, the CDU has called for closer ties between Germany and Israel and opposes the Boycott Divestment Sanctions movement. It has also agreed to a ban on the flag of Hamas.