As Israeli and Palestinian representatives prepare to sit down for direct peace talks in Jerusalem Wednesday, a new poll revealed that the Palestinian public is evenly split on support for renewing negotiations.
The survey, conducted July 27-28 by the Ramallah-based think tank Arab World For Research and Development among 1,200 Palestinian youth (18-30 years old) in the West Bank and Gaza, found that 46 percent of respondents support and 48% oppose an immediate return to negotiations. The margin of error was +/- 3%.
The poll found that support for a return to negotiations was slightly higher among Gaza youth compared to those who live in the West Bank (48% and 45% respectively.)
More than half of those asked (52%) said they oppose a two-state solution that includes East Jerusalem, with 45% saying they are in favor of such a deal.
When asked what approach they preferred to bring about the “end of the occupation,” 62% of respondents chose peaceful methods and 31 chose armed conflict. A further breakdown of the numbers revealed that of those who supported a peaceful end to the conflict, 25% chose direct negotiations, 20% chose a nonviolent popular uprising and 17% chose an international conference imposing a solution on both parties.
In the internal Palestinian competition between Fatah and Hamas, Fatah’s approach to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was more popular among youth (31%) than the Hamas approach of armed resistance (20%). However, most respondents (44%) said neither of the two was preferred. When asked who they would vote for if elections were held now, 45% selected Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and 23% selected Hamas’s Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh.
US Secretary of State John Kerry tried to ease tensions following Israeli announcements of new construction works approved for the West Bank and East Jerusalem on Monday.
Kerry said at a news conference Monday in Bogota that he has talked about the announcements with the top Israeli negotiator.
Kerry said the US government views the settlements as illegitimate. He added that criticism on the Palestinian side shows the need to get negotiations going quickly.
“I think that what this underscores, actually, is the importance of getting to the table and getting to the table quickly and resolving the questions with respect to settlements, which are best resolved by solving the problems of security and borders,” Kerry said. “Once you have security and borders solved, you have resolved the question of settlements.”
Kerry urged both parties not to react adversely or to provoke the other side, but to move forward quietly, carefully and deliberately to negotiate the major issues.
“With the negotiation of major issues, these kind of hotpoint issues … are eliminated as the kind of flashpoints that they may be viewed today,” he said.
Israel on Monday began processing the 26 Palestinian prisoners set to be released in the first phase of a confidence-building measure meant to help restart peace negotiations with the Palestinian Authority.
The prisoners, convicted terrorists, have been transferred to Ayalon Prison in Ramle and have begun a process of identification, medical exams, exit interviews with prison staff and discussions with the Red Cross.
Yoel Goldman and AP contributed to this report.