Palestinian Rejectionism Is Weakening
A recent poll showed that Israelis want a tougher policy towards the Palestinians. As for the Palestinians — beyond occasionally rampaging and murdering Israelis — what do they want?
Dan Polisar of Shalem College reviewed 400 opinion polls dating from 2000, and found at the Palestinians hold three main views of Israel: it lacks a historical or religious justification; it is by nature aggressive; and it will soon disappear. But attitudes might be changing slightly, judging by a recent poll that suggests a growing apathy toward the rejectionist priorities of both the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas.
Conducted from May 16-27, under the direction of the Washington Institute’s David Pollock — and implemented by the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion — the survey-takers asked detailed in-person questions of 1,540 Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza and eastern Jerusalem.
Only 12 percent of West Banker residents and 25 percent Gazans said that their priority was to “establish a Palestinian state,” while 49 and 40 percent, respectively, said that their priority was “a good family life.” (The dual numbers will be used throughout this article for the West Bank and Gaza; Jerusalem results are not included here.)
Preference for “a good family life” also emerged from replies about current issues. Only 12/25 percent considered relocating the US embassy to Jerusalem as a very important issue. On the subject of special financial benefits paid by the PA for “martyrs,” 66/67 percent said that the PA “should give prisoners’ families normal benefits, like everybody else.”
Palestinians sampled in the poll also appear significantly more pragmatic than political in their attitudes toward Israel:
- Employment opportunities within Israel were favored by 63/70 percent.
- When it comes to BDS, close to half wanted more employment from Israeli companies.
- Increased direct personal contacts with Israelis was favored by 55/57 percent respectively.
- Arab states offering both Israelis and Palestinians incentives “to take more moderate positions” was favored by 58/55 percent, respectively.
The Palestinians also realize that 1948 cannot be undone, with 60/46 percent agreeing with the statement: ”Most Israeli settlers will probably stay where they are, and most Palestinian refugees will not return to the 1948 lands,” and 41/51 percent saying that they would accept extra aid “to resettle Palestinian refugees in the West Bank or Gaza but not inside Israel.”
Two replies show that an Israeli state is far more acceptable than one for the Jewish people, with 75/62 percent consenting permanently to end the war with Israel and create a state of Palestine based on the 1949 borders, but only 45/37 percent agreeing to ”Two states for two peoples — the Palestinian people and the Jewish people … if it might help to end to occupation.”
The discrepancies between these two responses point to a deep Palestinian reluctance to accept Israel as the Jewish state. According to the poll, very few accept that “Jews have some rights to this land,” and great majorities insist that, someday, “Palestinians will control almost all of Palestine.” Ritualistic denial of Israel’s legitimacy is standard; more noteworthy is that such denial only partially interferes with recognizing Israel’s inescapable existence.
Confirming this point, note the dramatic change in attitudes over just two years. Asked if two states means the “end the conflict” or whether the fighting must continue “until all of historic Palestine is liberated,” West Bankers vote 35 to 55 percent in favor of continued conflict, while Gazans vote 47 to 44 percent in favor of resolution.
Back in May 2015, West Bankers voted almost identical to how they did this year, but Gaza’s — by a ration of 2-to-1 — preferred continued conflict, prompting Pollock to note that, in the intervening two years, “many Gazans have probably come to regret the lasting damage of the disastrous 2014 war on their territory, and shifted their views in a relatively peaceful direction.” More proof of this phenomena: asked whether Hamas should maintain its cease-fire with Israel, a 55/80 percent affirmative reply points to the impact that the constant warfare is having on Gaza.
When it comes to Washington, “pressure on Israel to make concessions” is not the Palestinians’ priority. For West Bankers, it is US pressure on the PA to make it “more democratic and less corrupt”; for Gazans, the priority is “increased economic aid.”
These replies suggest that some Palestinians have moved away from grand anti-Zionist ambitions, and that they are not imbued with an infinite spirit of resistance; they are not supermen. Like everyone else, they are prone to despair, a collapse of will and defeat.
This conclusion points to the utility of an Israeli victory strategy that increases the pressure on Palestinians until their dictators in Ramallah and Gaza accede to this turn toward the practical. This could potentially start the long process of ending the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
A version of this article was originally published by Israel Hayom.