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Israel’s Strange “Peace Partners”

Posted By P. David Hornik On October 7, 2010 @ 12:22 am In FrontPage | 12 Comments

No sooner did Israeli-Palestinian talks start up again, after an intermission of almost two years, than they got snagged again—this time by the Palestinians’ demand that Israel extend its settlement moratorium. The moratorium—a major, unprecedented concession by Israel—was instated from late November last year to late September this year. It garnered no reciprocal gesture whatsoever from the Palestinian Authority, where virulent anti-Israel incitement continued.

Instead, PA president Mahmoud Abbas finally entered talks with Israel toward the end of the ten-month West Bank building freeze, just in time to condition any further talks on its extension. This at a time when Palestinian building in the West Bank—including a whole new city, Rawabi—continues unfettered.

Various media reports give different accounts of how likely it is that the talks will resume, and the positions of the sides. The reports agree, though, that intensive U.S. efforts to rescue the talks continue—President Barack Obama having made an envisioned Israeli-Palestinian peace a central and even obsessive goal.

Of interest, then, is a newly released poll of Palestinian public opinion. It was conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, whose director is the respected Palestinian pollster Dr. Khalil Shikaki.

Among the 1270 adult Palestinian interviewees in randomly selected places in the West Bank and Gaza, 66% wanted the Palestinian side to pull out of the talks. The survey was done just after Israel’s building freeze had expired, with small-scale construction resuming in a few settlements. As many have noted, though, previous Israeli-Palestinian talks from 1992 through early 2009 were never made conditional by the Palestinians on an end to settlement construction, which continued throughout that period.

In other words, two-thirds of the Palestinians don’t share President Obama’s enthusiasm for a negotiated agreement with Israel—to the point that they don’t even want negotiations to continue.

Last August 31 four Israeli civilians, including a nine-months-pregnant mother of six, were murdered in their car by Hamas terrorists near Hebron. The attack occurred just as the Israeli-Palestinian talks were set to resume and was viewed as a protest against them.

The poll found that 51% of the interviewees supported this attack and 44% opposed it. It was somewhat more popular in Hamas-run Gaza, where 61% approved of it, than in the West Bank, where a minority of “only” 44% did so. The attack’s popularity clearly was not harmed by the fact that 49% thought Hamas’s motivation was to derail the talks—a goal shared by a large majority of the interviewees in any case.

This does not mean, however, that Hamas itself is popular. Asked whom they would vote for if new presidential elections were held today, 57% chose Abbas and only 36% Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas leader in Gaza. As for legislative elections, 45% would vote for Abbas’s Fatah and only 26% for Hamas. In both cases the results are almost identical to results obtained in June.

That is, Hamas did not gain popularity from the terror attack. It’s the attack itself that is popular among the Palestinians.

In another notable finding, it turns out that if presidential elections were held between Marwan Barghouti and Haniyeh, not only would participation in the elections increase considerably but Barghouti would trounce Haniyeh by 65%-30%. Barghouti, a Fatah figure, was one of the key leaders of the Second Intifada terror onslaught against Israel and is now serving a life sentence in Israel on five counts of murder (he was acquitted on 33 other charges of murder for lack of evidence). Clearly, this not only does not harm his popularity among the Palestinians but enhances it.

Also worthy of note is that, though Hamas-run Gaza is generally considered more dictatorial than the Fatah-run Palestinian Authority, 65% of West Bankers said they cannot criticize their government without fear and just about the identical total—66%—of Gazans said the same about their government.

Seemingly, those who fervently espouse Palestinian statehood in the West Bank and Gaza as a formula for peace should take note of these appalling findings. Supporters of Israel should demand that the Obama administration explain how creating a dictatorship whose population strongly backs terror, and whose leaders are likely to be terrorists, is consistent with American values and interests.


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