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March 30, 2022 11:21 am

What Are the Palestinians Thinking? A New Survey Exposes the Harsh Reality

avatar by Maurice Hirsch


Relatives and friends mourn during the funeral procession of Yehuda Dimentman who was killed in a Palestinian terrorist attack near the Jewish outpost of Homesh in the West Bank, December 17, 2021. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

A new study conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PCPSR), provides an interesting window into the thoughts of the Palestinians and their opinions on a host of different subjects.

The results of the survey are very worrying and must be taken into account by all the relevant actors, before formulating any policy about the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

The following are some of the central findings of the survey.

Who do the Palestinians want to lead them?

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The clearest findings of the new survey are that reigning Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas would not be re-elected and that in his place, the Palestinians hope to see one terrorist or another at the helm.

Contrary to PA law, which stipulates that a person can serve as PA leader for a maximum of two four-year terms, Abbas is now in his 18th year. Bowing to international pressure Abbas did call elections for the PA parliament in 2021, only to cancel them when he understood his Fatah party would lose to Hamas.

The new PCPSR study shows that Abbas was merely delaying the inevitable.

Palestinian politics is dominated by two parties — Fatah, headed by Abbas, and Hamas, an internationally-designated terror organization, headed by Ismail Haniyeh. According to the new survey, if Abbas were to face off today against Haniyeh for the position of PA president, Haniyeh would win 54% of the vote, while Abbas would receive only 38%.

Were Abbas to step down and current PA Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh face off against Haniyeh instead, Haniyeh would win 60% of the vote, while Shtayyeh would gain only 33%.

The “good news,” per the survey, is that were Marwan Barghouti to run against Haniyeh, Barghouti would win 59% of the vote while Haniyeh would only win 37%.

The problem with this scenario is that Barghouti is currently serving five life sentences for his part in the murder of four Israelis and a Greek Orthodox priest. For the terrorist murderer Barghouti to beat terror organization leader Haniyeh, and actually fill the role of PA leader, Israel’s president would have to order Barghouti’s release from prison, or Israel would have to allow him to run for the chairmanship from within his prison cell, and the PA would have to suffice with a powerless figurehead chairman, unable to truly fill the position.

As regards the elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) — the PA parliament — the findings of the survey provide a false sense of hope.

In the last PLC elections — held in 2006 — Hamas won the outright majority in both Gaza and the areas of Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) under PA control. According to the new survey, if new elections were held for the PLC today, “with the participation of all factions that participated in the 2006 elections,” Fatah would win 42% of the vote, while Hamas would win 36%.

The reason this result provides false hope is that it assumes that only one unified Fatah list would compete against Hamas, as was the case in the 2006 elections. The problem with this scenario is that in the run up to the cancelled 2021 elections, Fatah splintered into three separate lists.

Accordingly, assuming that same situation repeats itself before any future election, it is irrelevant to look to answers based on a question “with the participation of all factions that participated in the 2006 elections” to understand the outcome of the future elections and declare a Fatah win. The more relevant analysis would be to assume that Hamas would still win 36% of the vote, while the “Fatah” votes would be divided between the different “Fatah” representatives. In this scenario, it is not clear, and rather unlikely, that one Fatah representative would indeed win more seats than Hamas.

Israel-Palestinian relations

The findings of the PCPSR survey also present an interesting insight as to how the Palestinians view their relationship with Israel.

While many international actors including the US, the EU, and others, constantly voice their support for the so-called “Two-State Solution” — creating a new “State of Palestine” comprised of the Gaza Strip, some or all of Judea and Samaria, and some or all of Jerusalem — only 40% of Palestinians support that idea.

Conversely, only 32% of Palestinians support the “One State Solution,” with “equal rights” for all citizens. In a similar manner, 67% of Palestinians support the suspension of the PLO’s recognition of Israel, and 61% support the decision to end the implementation of agreements with Israel — including security coordination.

When asked about the most effective means of “ending the Israeli occupation and building an independent state,” the report says that 68% of Palestinians chose violence (44% chose armed struggle and 24% chose “popular resistance” (the PA euphemism that includes sporadic terror attacks like shootings, stabbings, and car rammings).

Only 25% of the Palestinians chose the path of “negotiations.”

When seen as a whole, it appears that most Palestinians support neither a “Two-State Solution” nor the “One State Solution.” While not specifically asked or answered, these responses would tend to suggest that the majority of Palestinians support only the creation of one Palestinian state, in which Jews would not have equal, or any, rights. It would also appear that most Palestinians believe that the use of violence and terror is the best and preferred means to achieve their goals.

What role does the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) serve?

In the past, the PLO touted itself, and was widely recognized, as the “sole representative of the Palestinian people.” However, as Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) has already exposed, for many years Palestinian support for the PLO has been dwindling.

According to previous PCPSR surveys, in 2006, 69% of Palestinians polled still saw the PLO as the “sole” Palestinian representative. That support had dropped to 58% in 2018, and to 54% in 2019. The new PCPSR survey shows a continued PLO loss of popular Palestinian support, with only 51% of those asked seeing the PLO as their “sole legitimate representative.”

Some of the waning support for the PLO could be grounded in the fact that most of the Palestinian public does not support the recent appointments of the Abbas loyalists and confidants to senior PLO positions. For example, only 24% of those asked support the appointment of Rouhi Fattouh as the Speaker of the PLO’s National Council; and only 26% of those asked support the election of Hussein al-Sheikh — who sees himself and is also seen by others as a potential replacement for Abbas — to the Executive Committee.

The loss of support for the PLO should have immediate consequences. For example, Israel signed the Oslo Peace Accords (the generic name given to a series of agreements signed between September 1993 and September 1995 that gave rise, inter alia, to the Palestinian Authority) with the PLO. If the PLO no longer represents the will of the Palestinians and no longer enjoys their support, then what will Israel gain from continued negotiations with them?

Similarly, the PA leadership has been urging the US administration to reopen the PLO offices in Washington, DC, that were closed under the Trump administration. US law, in force since the mid 1980’s, designates the PLO as a terror organization. For years, following the Oslo Accords, successive US administrations waived the provisions of the law and allowed the PLO to have offices in DC, in order to promote and forward the peace process. While other provisions of the law prevent reopening the PLO offices, the fact that the PLO no longer truly represents the Palestinian people, is and should be a substantial factor to be considered.

The PLO already includes internationally-designated terror organizations such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). Worryingly, Palestinian support for the PLO would increase if the organization would widen its membership to include Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, both of which are internationally-designated terror organizations.

As PMW has already noted, there are a number of international actors who support “Palestinian reconciliation,” i.e. Fatah and Hamas bridging their differences in order to provide a united front against Israel. While this notion itself — giving legitimacy to the homicidal Hamas as a bona fide actor on the scene — is outrageous and immoral, the additional “good news” of the new PCPSR survey is that only 20% of Palestinians believe that PA PM Shtayyeh is capable of organizing such a “reconciliation.” The Palestinian skepticism reflects the fact that while there really is no ideological difference between Fatah and Hamas regarding the goal of destroying Israel, the fundamental rift between them is based solely on who controls the PA and its billions of dollars of income.

How do the Palestinians view the PA?

According to the PCPSR survey, the “perception of corruption in the PA” stands at no less than 84%. Most Palestinians (55%) believe that the PA is a burden on the Palestinians, and 49% believe that dissolving the PA is the best method to break the current political impasse.

Prime goal for the PA should be flooding Israel with the return of all refugees

When asked what the most vital goal for the Palestinians should be, 33% answered that “the first most vital goal should be to obtain the right of return of refugees to their 1948 towns and villages.”

As PMW has shown, the PA uses the demand that Israel be flooded with millions of so-called “Palestinian refugees” as a means to bring about the destruction of Israel. For Israel to agree to this demand, Israel would have to agree to commit national suicide.

Speaking of Israel’s destruction, the PCPSR survey found that 73% of Palestinians believe the Koran prophesized the eventual demise of the State of Israel.

Lt. Col. (res.) Maurice Hirsch, Adv. is the Head of Legal Strategies for Palestinian Media Watch, where a version of this article first appeared.

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