While the Arab-Israeli Conflict has been going on for 100 years, there have been notable breakthroughs. Peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan in 1979 and 1994, respectively, were watershed moment which were unfortunately followed by the Two Percent War/Second Intifada (2000-2004), 2006 Lebanon War and Gaza Wars of 2008, 2012 and 2014. But in the waning years of the Trump Administration in 2020, Israel forged normalization agreements with several Arab countries including the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco.
Democrats offered a tepid reaction to the new Arab-Israel peace announcements because there was no similar announcement with the Palestinians. However, a review of how Palestinians viewed their Israeli neighbors over the past several years shows interesting movements precisely when such archaic negative thinking is rejected.
Gazans consistently view Israel as an enemy. Palestinian polls show Gazans in favor of armed attacks inside of Israel against Jewish civilians by a majority ranging from two-thirds to over three-quarters, a shocking figure which should alarm the world (imagine if 75% of Pakistanis were in favor of killing civilians in India).
Arabs from the West Bank have a more nuanced attitude towards Israel. Their opinions change depending on current events.
The chart above shows how West Bank Arabs changed their attitudes in regards to launching an armed “Intifada” (blue line) and supporting the killing of Jewish civilians inside of Israel (orange line).
- The “Stabbing Intifada” which included running over soldiers and civilians in the summer/fall of 2015 was popular among West Bank Arabs and saw a peak support level for terrorism at 47%.
- The Trump administration announcement of its intention to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem saw an uptick supporting terrorism that had been dropping since the 2015 peak.
- The lowest support for terrorism occurred after Trump cut funding for UNRWA. UNRWA is much more popular in Gaza where roughly 85% of Gazans get service from the UN agency, compared to only roughly 35% in the West Bank.
- Support for Hamas and attacks against Israel spiked shortly thereafter, when Israel botched a military operation in Gaza. Palestinian Arabs widely viewed Hamas as being the victor in the contest, and with that perceived win, support for terror rose.
- Support for attacking Israelis among West Bank Arabs declined since then and reached a low with the signing of the Abraham Accords
Interestingly, the Trump years saw a sharp decline in attitudes among West Bank Arabs supporting “lone wolf” attacks against Israeli Jewish civilians. Those four years saw the lowest Israeli death toll from terrorism in modern Israeli history. Meanwhile, the West Bankers support for an armed “Intifada” held somewhat constant.
Ending UNRWA’s mandate and fostering peace with more Arab nations seemingly directly impacts West Bank Arabs abandoning terrorism. Conversely, perceived “wins” for HAMAS in battles with Israel breathes new life for armed conflict. The path towards peace is clear: international peace brings peace while international meddling brings terror.
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