A recent poll showed that Israelis want a tougher policy toward the Palestinians. And Palestinians, beyond occasional rampaging and murdering Israelis, what do they want
Shalem College Executive Vice President Dr. Dan Polisar reviewed opinion polls taken of Palestinians in recent years, and found that they 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 priorities of both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas.
Conducted May 16-27 under the direction of the Washington Institute’s David Pollock and implemented by the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion, the survey during asked detailed questions of 1,540 Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and east Jerusalem.
Only 12% of West Bank residents and 25% of Gazans said their priority was to “establish a Palestinian state,” while 49% and 40% respectively said their priority was “a good family life.” (Jerusalem results are not included here.)
Only 12% and 25% respectively considered relocating the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem very important. On the subject of special financial benefits paid by the PA for “martyrs,” 66% and 67% respectively said the PA “should give prisoners’ families normal benefits, like everybody else.”
The Palestinians questioned in the poll appeared to be significantly more pragmatic than political in their attitudes toward Israel, with 63% and 70% respectively favoring employment opportunities within Israel, close to half seeking more employment by Israeli companies, 55% and 57% respectively approving increased direct personal contacts with Israelis, and 58% and 55% respectively liking the idea of Arab states offering both Israelis and Palestinians incentives “to take more moderate positions.”
They also realized that 1948 cannot be undone, with 60% and 48% respectively 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% and 51% respectively saying they would accept extra aid “to resettle Palestinian refugees in the West Bank or Gaza but not inside Israel.”
Two replies showed that an Israeli state is far more acceptable than is the Jewish people, with 75% and 62% respectively consenting permanently to end the war with Israel and create a Palestine based on the 1949 borders, but only 45% and 37% respectively 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 the two responses point to a deep Palestinian reluctance to accept Israel as the Jewish state. Very few accept that “Jews have some rights to this land” and great majorities insist that, some day, “Palestinians will control almost all of Palestine.” Ritualistic denial of Israel’s legitimacy is standard; it is more noteworthy 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 of the conflict” or whether it must continue “until all of historic Palestine is liberated,” West Bank residents voted 35% to 55% in favor of continued conflict, while Gazans voted 47% to 44% in favor of resolution. Back in May 2015, West Bank residents voted almost as they did this year but Gazans 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: Asked whether Hamas should maintain its cease-fire with Israel, the 55% and 80% affirmative replies point to the impact of many rounds of warfare in Gaza.
When it comes to Washington, “pressure on Israel to make concessions” is not the Palestinians’ priority. For West Bank residents, the priority is U.S. pressure on the PA to make it “more democratic and less corrupt”; for Gazans, it 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 Israel 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.
Daniel Pipes (DanielPipes.org, @DanielPipes) is president of the Middle East Forum.