An Inconvenient Truth: Palestinian Polls

There were a growing number of violent attacks by Palestinians against Israelis in October 2015.  Various politicians such as the US Secretary of State John Kerry blamed the root cause as Palestinian frustration about ongoing Jewish “settlements” east of the Green Line.  Acting President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas pointed the finger at defending Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem from Israelis changing the status quo.  United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon considered that it was due to Palestinians frustration about the failed peace talks and lack of progress towards creating a Palestinian state.

Why all of the guessing for identifying the root cause when the Palestinians poll themselves every three months?

The Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research conducts a poll every quarter on a range of issues.  It breaks the analysis between Palestinian Arabs living in the West Bank/ east of the Green Line and the Gaza Strip.  A review of the poll numbers gives a much better sense of Palestinian Arabs sentiments about their situation than biased and bogus statements from Kerry, Abbas and Ban Ki-Moon.

A Growing Majority of Palestinians Support Attacking Israeli Civilians

The poll figures do show a growing support of attacking innocent Israeli civilians.  In December 2013, the percentage of Arabs supporting unprovoked attacks was 34% and 58% in the West Bank and Gaza, respectively.  Those figures jumped to 48% and 68% for WB and Gaza in September 2014 and then to 50% and 70% in September 2015.  Overall, a clear majority of 57.2% of Palestinians were in favor of terrorism as of September 2015, up from 42.9% in December 2013.

Terrifying numbers about terrorism in both the absolute percentage and in the terrible trendline of support.

No heightened Palestinian fear regarding Annexing the West Bank and Changing the Status Quo on the Temple Mount. Palestinians are ALWAYS afraid.

Despite Kerry’s assertion that Palestinians are increasingly fearful of Israelis living east of the Green Line and Abbas’s statement about Israel changing the status quo on the Temple Mount, the statements are untrue.

kerry harvard
John Kerry at Harvard attacking Israeli settlements
(photo: Brian Snyder/Reuters)

Settlements: Palestinians have always been afraid of Israeli intentions regarding annexing land. In December 2013, 85.3% and 80.5% of Arabs in the West Bank and Gaza, respectively, believed that Israel would annex the entire region.  Those figures dropped after the 2014 Gaza War to 81.2% and 75.3% in September 2014, before rising again to 88.5% and 78% one year later.

In every quarter over the past two years, between 80% and 90% Palestinian Arabs in the West Bank thought Israel was intending to annex both the West Bank and Gaza.  The range was 70% to 82.5% for Palestinians living in Gaza.  Presumably the Arabs in Gaza did not have as great a fear as the Arabs in the West Bank since they clearly saw that Israel left Gaza in 2005.  The question remained why the fear factor numbers remain so consistently high, even in Gaza.  In any event, there was no correlation between the increased Arab desire to kill Jews and their fear of Israelis annexing territory.

Al Aqsa: The poll numbers show similar results for the Temple Mount/ Al Aqsa.  In March 2014, the PCPSR asked whether people were concerned that Israel would change the status quo on the Temple Mount.  Almost everyone – 93% – believed Israel intended to make changes to access and prayer rights.

In December 2014, 66.2% of West Bank Arabs, and 38.8% of Gazans thought that Israel intended to completely destroy the Al Aqsa mosque.  In the most recent September 2015 poll, those figures dropped to 60% and 33.4% for the West Bank and Gaza, respectively.  Again, there was no correlation between the uptick in violence due to Palestinian fears, despite the October 2015 protestations of John Kerry and Mahmoud Abbas.

The UN Fantasy of Palestinian Support for a Two State Solution
and Negotiated Process

Despite the United Nations repeated comments that the key to peace lies in a two state solution, it has never been a particularly popular dream of the Palestinians. In March 2014, a slim majority of 51.2% of Palestinians supported the idea. In the last poll of September 2015, 47.9% of Palestinians were in favor of two states.

Further, throughout 2015 a majority of Palestinians favored an armed struggle with Israel more than negotiations.  In December 2014, Arabs broke down as 41.9%, 25.6% and 28.3% in favor of using either violence, negotiations and non-violent protests, respectively. In September 2015, the polls showed little movement, with a breakdown of 41.6%, 29.2% and 24.2%.

The Palestinian polls show that the two state solution has never been a very popular idea, and those that favor it believe it can best be accomplished through violence. The recent uptick in actual violence actually accompanied a move from a preference for negotiations, counter to expectations.

Safety and Social Media

The poll numbers do show some trends that correlate to the spike in what Wall Street Journal’s Brett Stephens referred to as a Palestinian “blood lust.”

Safety: In December 2013, a majority of Arabs east of the Green Line (54.4%) and in Gaza (61.7%) felt safe.  That changed dramatically after the 2014 Gaza war.  Between June 2014 and December 2014 the sense of safety in the West Bank dropped from 51% to 38.3%, and in Gaza from 63.9% to 46.1%.  The numbers continued to stay low over 2015, with a perceived safety growing from 38.3% to 48.7% in September 2015 in the West Bank, and dropping further in Gaza from 46.1% to 39.5%.  Those are very dramatic declines from two years earlier.

Social Media: Palestinians, particularly those in the West Bank, have been getting their news from social media in much greater numbers.  In the West Bank, Arabs that use Facebook and Twitter jumped from 14.7% (June 2014) to 19% (December 2014) to 26.4% (September 2015). The numbers in Gaza over that time period went from 21.3% to 21.6% to 24.1%.  These are significant changes, particularly in the West Bank.

The survey does not cover what kind of items people are watching and sharing on social media.  According to some news reports, videos of Israeli forces shooting Palestinians and “how to” videos showing ways to stab Jews, have gone viral.

The Palestinian Authority

The Palestinian Authority has always been viewed as corrupt by Palestinians according to polls.  Anywhere from 78% to 84% of West Bank Arabs that live under the PA consider the government corrupt according to every poll.  In Gaza, the percentage is lower, from 72% to 82%, but the overall sentiment is the same.

However, what has not stayed the same is the confidence in Abbas.  While coming in dead last in a theoretical three-person presidential election each quarter, his support has plummeted in the West Bank, while it has grown in Gaza.  In the WB: 32.1% (12/13); 28.5% (6/14); 26.7% (12/14); 21.5% (9/15). In Gaza: 17.2% (12/13); 27.1% (6/14); 20.8% (12/14); and 27.4% (9/15).  By September 2015, 62.9% of West Bank Arabs and 67.4% of Gazans wanted Abbas to resign.

Conclusion

Principal players in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are using stale and incorrect information to describe the current violence, and as such, are focused on irrelevant solutions.  The settlements and the Temple Mount are not reasons for violent attacks.  A negotiated two state solution was never popular, despite the many efforts of those who strongly advocate for it.  Like the corruption of the Palestinian Authority, these things are constant white noise that don’t suddenly motivate people to murder.

Today’s violence is erupting due to concerns over safety, and fueled by the credibility and incitement of Palestinians on new media.

Abbas announced the beginning of his retreat from the Oslo Accords and managing security in the West Bank. The West Bank Arabs now feel more threatened and communicate directly with each other over social media about attacks and injuries.  The raw videos of families and friends being injured make them feel more unsafe and angry.  They, in turn, make videos for their friends to attack Israelis and reject Palestinian leadership, which fuels the security fears on all sides.

World and regional leaders are rehashing old misconceptions about a pathway towards peace and security in the region.  They should look at what Palestinians are actually saying: they are ambivalent about of a negotiated two state solution. They do not believe or trust their own leadership any more than the intentions of the Israelis.

With such understanding, it is time to rethink always propping up Abbas, ignoring Hamas and condemning the Israelis. It is time to stop obsessing about the settlements and Temple Mount and focus on security and communications.

The inconvenient truth is that Palestinians don’t like and don’t trust any of today’s leaders, and those same leaders refuse to listen to what the Palestinians are telling them.  It is hard to imagine peace and security emerging from such a dynamic.

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9 thoughts on “An Inconvenient Truth: Palestinian Polls

  1. There will never be peace while Palestinian incitement beginning in kindergarten is allowed to continue. The entire Palestinian society is funded by Western dollars, directly and through the UN. The UN runs schools. If there was the will a crackdown on incitement would be possible. When the West employs ‘tough love’ things will get better. Until then the West is complicit in the terror.

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