Polls Show Palestinians View Settlements as Sabotaging Peace

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Polls Show Palestinians View Settlements as Sabotaging Peace

By Ella Bancroft

A poll by the Center for Palestine Research and Studies (CPRS) in Nablus conducted from Feb. 2 to 4 throughout the West Bank and Gaza showed strong support among Palestinians for Yasser Arafat and his mainstream Fatah movement, but deep resentment over expansion of Israeli settlements and Israeli border closings.

The poll showed that unemployment in the West Bank and Gaza had been 32 percent in early January, but nearly doubled to 57 percent when Israel closed its borders following the Jan. 21 double bomb attack at Beit Lid in which 19 Israeli soldiers and one civilian were killed.

A total of 51.4 percent of respondents looked positively at Yasser Arafat's visit to Amman to sign an agreement between the Palestinian National Authority and Jordan. By contrast, 29.7 percent of respondents thought disputes between the two parties would not end because of the agreements.

Palestinians viewed negatively Yitzhak Rabin's suggestion of permanent separation between Israelis and Palestinians, with 64.3 percent suggesting it is a form of retaliatory and vindictive collective punishment and only 15.8 percent believing that the idea of separation is the beginning of Israeli acceptance of establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza.

The number of respondents who believe that the peace process which began with the Declaration of Principles will lead to establishment of a Palestinian state reached 55.3 percent in February, compared with only 45.1 percent of respondents in September 1993. Those who currently believe the agreement will not lead to a Palestinian state were 32.6 percent. The presence of the Palestinian National Authority clearly led to greater optimism in Gaza, where 62.4 percent believe the peace process will lead to a Palestinian state. The absence of the PNA from all of the West Bank but Jericho is reflected in opinions, where only 50.8 percent reflect this optimistic assessment.

Palestinian optimism vanishes almost totally, however, when asked whether, if the Israelis continue expanding settlements, the negotiations should continue. An overwhelming 81.3 percent of respondents rejected continuing negotiations in the context of expanding settlements. This is the highest opposition to continuing negotiations recorded since immediately after the Hebron massacre in February 1994.

A plurality of Palestinians expressed support for armed operations against Israeli targets, with 46 percent supporting them, 33.5 percent opposing them, and 20.5 percent with no opinion. Support for armed operations was higher among the educated. It was markedly lower among respondents over age 50 (40.9 percent support) than among respondents aged 18 to 22 (54 percent support). Although support for armed operations comes largely from Islamic opposition factions and the leftist rejectionist PFLP, it also is found among the two groups that support Yasser Arafat, Fatah (37.7 percent support for armed operations) and Fida (33.3 percent support).

Year of Polling Finds Palestinians Support Arafat

Journalists invited on Feb. 14 to International Republican Institute (IRI) headquarters in Washington, DC were briefed on a year of CPRS public opinion polling throughout the West Bank and Gaza by Dr. Nader Izzat Sa'id, who heads the Center's survey research unit in Nablus. The organization receives financial and technical support from the IRI aimed at keeping its polls accurate and free from identification with any Palestinian party or movement.

Dr. Sa'id described how CPRS pollsters, who travel in pairs which must include at least one woman, do their interviewing in homes, choosing the person to be interviewed within each home by flips of a coin. The final poll results compiled from more than 1,000 interviews are tabulated by geographical and demographic criteria to reflect an accurate model of the Palestinian community in Gaza and the West Bank by age, sex and education as well as by town or village of residence. …