All Is Not Well – According To The Poll
July 23, 2011 Leave a comment
Anyone following the situation in the Middle East would have probably seen the articles around the poll conducted by Stanley Greenberg, issued by the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion as well as the Israeli Project. Although this poll was not sponsored by right wing Zionists rather a Palestinian center and an allegedly peace promoting organisation (the essence of the name and cast of the board should make anyone a little doubtful about the neutrality, even if it isn’t justified), the results were quite damaging for the Palestinians.
The survey itself was conducted in a controlled manner, personally interviewing 1010 Palestinians from both the West Bank and Gaza. The interviews targeted a variety of people and the results are set to have a 3.1% error margin.
Possibly the most worrying result for Israel was the approval rate of 73% of people questioned of the Hamas Charter, which calls for the killing of all Jews. Also 80% agreed that it is a Muslim duty to participate in Jihad to eliminate Israel.
Some authors, typically sympathetic to the Palestinian cause, have argued that there is a difference between what the Palestinians want as opposed to what they would accept. However when 61% of people questioned said that they disagree with the negotiations basis, i.e. 1967 borders with land swaps and 34% rejecting outright the idea of a Jewish and Palestinian state coexisting, it is hard to put a positive spin on the prospects of peace. A question that played straight into the Israeli right wing parties hand was whether Palestinians supported the Gradual Approach, in which the Palestinians should reach an agreement for two states in stage one with the intention of establishing one state with a Muslim majority of the entire land of Israel in the second stage. This was ratified with the support of 66% of people who participated.
Some comfort could be found in the fact that only 22% supported the continuing rocket attack and 60% preferred diplomatic solution. Also it was made clear that highest priority for Abbas was to create Jobs, which was supported by 83%, although that came of the expense of people believing he should spend his time negotiating with Israel, which only received 2% support.
However, while the results are and will continue to be manipulated to fit different agendas as well as the pollster and sponsors would be celebrated or slated accordingly, it is important to consider the results against a comparable source, which is the results of the same survey done by the same people a year before. In October 2010 a survey was conducted by the same pollster Stanley Greenberg, in that survey 854 people respondent and while some questions differed, many of the questions remained the same, although the answers differed significantly.
For example while only 20% prefer violence over talks and 60% prefer talks in the recent survey, last year 58% favoured armed struggle and only 36% preferred diplomacy. Also the numbers for accepting a two state solution were flipped as 60% accepted the two state solution and only 36% rejected it. The answer that has stayed quite constant, which is the one of the sticking points between leftists and rightists in Israel is the gradual solution, in which the agreements today are only signed, in order to gain ground and gradually move onto the entire land of Israel, the result was 66% in both surveys.
A few observations that could e made on the two surveys should be very worrying. If the polls are taken as a reliable source of insight into the Palestinian street, then Israelis shouldn’t expect the security to improve after making more concessions and signing a peace agreement, since both poll indicated that the majority of people see the solution as a stepping stone. Another observation that could be made is that the number Palestinians favouring armed struggle has declined, but the number of Palestinians rejecting the peace process increased significantly.
The analysis of the results could be interpreted to fit more than one narrative. On the one hand Israelis could claim that the cooperation between IDF and the PA and the targeting of Hamas militants has had success, which caused Palestinians to move away from violence, however the same data could be interpreted claiming that the Palestinians have realized that delegitimizing Israel in the world arena for events such as Flotilla, Cast Lead and the humanitarian crisis, would do a lot more towards achieving their goal than firing rockets.
Whichever interpretation a reader would like to give the data, some things cannot be debated, if one were to believe the survey results. The peace negotiation frame put forward by the American government, which has been dicussed since Oslo in the 90s and partially implemented is completely rejected by the Palestinian majority. Even the ones that agree to it, see it as a temporary measure. Also, every Palestinian civilian that dies from the conflict or any hardship inflicted upon the Palestinians increases the animosity towards Israel from the Palestinians as well as the rest of the world, however, the education the Palestinians give their children in particular in Gaza and the culture ideology is anti-Israeli, justifying killing Israelis, and promoting the idea that one day the entire land of Israel would be taken back. This educating process taking place in mosques, schools and national TV has been going on for a long time and has resulted in an entire generation growing up on hatred, which is partially responsible for the survey results. While the same could be said about the far right Israelis typically the settlers, they are still a minority in Israel and they have not penetrated the national curriculum or national TV, in fact in Israel, it is very much the case that the left wing ideology is supported in universities and the mainstream media.
Anyone that is hoping to see a solution, in which two states are peacefully living side by side, should be very disappointed from these results. Since as things stand, even if a peace agreement would be signed, it wouldn’t reflect the true opinion of the Palestinian people, which could make as shaky and non relevant as the Fatah-Hamas agreement.
Perhaps a more practical approach needs to be implemented, in which the situation is analyzed and international actions are taken such as to remove incitement on both sides, international enforcement of no violence and smuggling and in return a significant bettering of the conditions of the Palestinians and opening the region to trade. The difference of this approach from before would be for the International to shift to an active role rather than the passive one today. However, in the political climate, where Iran is still a driving force of anti-Israel sentiment, Russia is a growing global power sheltering Syria, which is its one true foothold in the Middle East and China, which disagrees to take any active part in aligning its economic policies to political trends and/or abiding by international sanctions, this is very unlikely to happen and we are likely to see a lot more of the same.