Poll: Palestinian support for knife attacks waning
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Poll: Palestinian support for knife attacks waning

Support for two-state solution rises over 50% in West Bank, yet a majority still support armed intifada

Dov Lieber is The Times of Israel's Arab affairs correspondent.

Security forces at the scene of a stabbing attack in which 1 person was killed and 9 others were injured, in the Jaffa Port, on March 8, 2016. (Judah Ari Gross/Times of Israel)
Security forces at the scene of a stabbing attack in which 1 person was killed and 9 others were injured, in the Jaffa Port, on March 8, 2016. (Judah Ari Gross/Times of Israel)

Palestinian support for knife attacks against Israelis in the West Bank has sharply fallen, while a majority have come to support a two-state solution, according to a Palestinian poll released Monday.

While 57% of Palestinians in the West Bank supported knife attacks three months ago, that number has fallen to 44% today, according to the survey by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research.

Support for knife attacks dropped in Gaza as well, but only minutely, from 85% three months ago to 82% today.

Israel is in the midst of a six-month-long wave of Palestinian terror attacks characterized mostly by knife assaults, though officials have noted the number of incidents has dropped since the fall, when Palestinians carried out near-daily attacks in Jerusalem and the West Bank.

The drop in support for stabbings stems from the “rising perception” that such attacks are not effective enough to meet the goals of the Palestinian people, wrote the poll’s authors. However, the majority of Palestinians still believe that an armed intifada, or uprising, could serve Palestinian national interests better than negotiations can (75% in the Gaza Strip and 59% in the West Bank).

The survey found that the highest support for knife attacks continues to come from the “Oslo generation” — Palestinian youth between the ages of 18 and 22 who grew up after the peace process began in 1993. The “Oslo generation” is also the least likely to support the two-state solution, and is most likely to think that an armed intifada is the best way forward for the Palestinian national movement.

Hadil Wajia Awad, one of two teenage Palestinian attackers who stabbed a passerby in Jerusalem on November 23, 2015. (screen capture: Channel 2)
Hadil Wajia Awad, one of two teenage Palestinian attackers who stabbed a passerby in Jerusalem on November 23, 2015. (screen capture: Channel 2)

The recent wave in violence that began in October 2015, in which 29 Israelis, four foreign nationals and some 190 Palestinians have been killed, with around two-thirds of Palestinians deaths occurring while attacking Israelis, initially began over Palestinian fears that Israel was planning on changing the status quo on the Temple Mount.

According to the poll, over 52% of Palestinians believe that Israel is planning on destroying the al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, with the end goal of replacing the Islamic holy sites with a Jewish Temple.

Support for two states grows

While Palestinian youths are unenthused by the idea of two states, the general Palestinian population is finding the solution increasingly preferable. Support for the two-state solution has increased from 45% to 51% across the West Bank and the Gaza Strip over the past three months.

Though both Israeli leader Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and opposition leader Isaac Herzog are in favor of an eventual two-state solution, the two have stated that achieving that goal is not possible given the current chaotic state of the Middle East and the Palestinian Authority’s unwillingness to compromise.

In this context, Herzog recently put forward a plan that called for complete separation from the Palestinians by finishing the West Bank separation barrier to include major settlement blocs as well as the transfer of civil jurisdiction over most of the West Bank to the PA. Under the opposition leader’s plan, the Israeli army would maintain its security presence in the West Bank until a final-status agreement would be reached.

Isaac Herzog speaks to The Times of Israel's editor, David Horovitz, at the 2016 AIPAC Conference on Monday, March 21, 2016 (screen capture: YouTube)
Isaac Herzog speaks to The Times of Israel’s editor, David Horovitz, at the 2016 AIPAC conference, March 21, 2016. (screen capture: YouTube)

Only 30% of the Palestinian public support Herzog’s plan, while 66% oppose it, the poll found.

One plan that did receive broad support is the alleged Turkish-brokered negotiations between Israel and Hamas to build a seaport for Gaza, in return for a long-term truce. Seventy percent of Palestinians polled indicated support and 27% indicated opposition to such a deal.

Israel-Sunni alliance and Hezbollah

 

The Iran deal, which recently saw the Islamic Republic re-welcomed into the international community, along with the spread of pro-Iranian forces in conflicts across the Middle East, including in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen, has created a space of mutual security interest between Arab Sunni states and Israel.

Both opposition leader Herzog and the US Vice President Joe Biden spoke about increasing mutual interests between Israel and the Arab world, especially the Sunni Arab world, in their recent speeches at the AIPAC conference in Washington.

And last month, Netanyahu called for Arab states to bring their relations with the Jewish state into the open. Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon followed the prime minister’s remarks by saying that Israel has “covert ties” with Arab states, and not just Jordan and Egypt with whom Israel has peace treaties, but Gulf states and North African states as well.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on March 20, 2016. (Marc Israel Sellem/POOL)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on March 20, 2016. (Marc Israel Sellem/Pool)

In this context, 64% of Palestinians answered they believe that there is an Arab Sunni alliance with Israel against Iran.

The Sunni Arab campaign against Iran, led by Saudi Arabia, was apparent in the recent resolution by the Arab League to label the Iranian-backed Hezbollah a terrorist organization. The Arab League’s decision was preceded by a week with the blacklisting of Hezbollah by the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council.

When asked whether they agreed with the Arab League’s decision to label Hezbollah a terrorist organization, 60% of Palestinians surveyed said they disagree and 33% agreed.

Yet despite a growing conflict between Iran and the Sunni states, the majority of Palestinians — who are almost entirely Sunni as well — still hold a favorable view of Iran.

Following last February’s announcement from Tehran that Iran will pay thousands of dollars to the families of the Palestinian terrorists, 69% of those polled said they have a favorable impression of the Islamic Republic, while 24% said their impression was negative.

Internal Palestinian affairs

 

Nearly identical to the past PRC poll, 64% of the public wants Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to resign.

Abbas’s mandate expired in 2009, but no vote is scheduled because of divisions between the PA in the West Bank and Hamas. If elections were to take place, Abbas would lose to his Islamist political rival in Gaza, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, the poll found.

Head of the Hamas terror group, Ismail Haniya, waves to the crowd during an anti-Israel rally in the southern Gaza Strip city of Rafah on February 26, 2016. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)
Head of the Hamas terror group, Ismail Haniyeh, waves to the crowd during an anti-Israel rally in the southern Gaza Strip city of Rafah on February 26, 2016. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

While the government in the West Bank receives international support, the poll found that the perception of corruption in PA institutions stands at 79%.

Additionally, according to the survey — which was conducted face to face with 1,270 adults in 127 randomly selected locations and has a margin of error of 3% — only 29% of the Palestinian public say people in the West Bank can criticize the PA without fear.

The suppression of freedom of expression extends into the media sphere as well, with only 17% saying there is freedom of the press in the West Bank and 20% thought similarly in Gaza.

Hamas’s al-Aqsa TV, which openly calls for increased violence against Israelis, has the highest viewership among Palestinians (21%) followed by the PA-controlled Palestine TV (20%).

Though Hamas is favored politically, nearly half (48%) of the Gazans would like to immigrate from the coastal enclave, which suffered three destructive conflicts with Israel since the Islamist group violently took over Gaza in 2006.

Agencies and Times of Israel Staff contributed to this report

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