Poll: Most Palestinians oppose renewed dialogue with US

Amid falling out with Trump, half of respondents favor outright rejection of any American plan to resolve the conflict

Adam Rasgon is the Palestinian affairs reporter at The Times of Israel

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, right, meets US President Donald Trump In the West Bank city of Bethlehem on May 23, 2017. (Fadi Arouri, Xinhua Pool via AP)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, right, meets US President Donald Trump In the West Bank city of Bethlehem on May 23, 2017. (Fadi Arouri, Xinhua Pool via AP)

A majority of Palestinians oppose renewed dialogue between the Ramallah-based Palestinian leadership and US President Donald Trump’s administration, according to a public opinion poll published on Wednesday. 

Sixty-two percent of Palestinians are against a resumption of dialogue, while 27% are in favor, the survey found.

Since Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and initiated the relocation of the US Embassy in Israel to the city last December, PA President Mahmoud Abbas and several top Palestinian officials have refused to meet White House officials, including US Vice President Mike Pence, and other American government personnel.

However, senior Palestinian security officials including Ziad Hab a-Rih, the head of PA Preventative Security, and Majid Faraj, the chief of the PA General Intelligence Services, have recently held meetings with CIA officials, according to two Palestinian sources who spoke to The Times of Israel.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, center, attends a meeting with top decision-making body the Palestinian Central Council, at his headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on August 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

The publication of the poll’s results comes days after the US cut all its funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, the UN body tasked with aiding Palestinian refugees, and more than $200 million in other aid for projects in the West Bank and Gaza.

The Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PCPSR) conducted the poll, which surveyed 1,270 Palestinians in 127 randomly selected locations between September 5 and 8.

Fifty percent of Palestinians believe that if the US presents a peace plan to resolve the conflict with Israel, the Palestinian leadership should dismiss it out of hand because “it must be bad for the Palestinians,” 31% favor reviewing the substance of the American plan before rejecting or accepting it, the poll also found. 

Illustrative photo of a bustling Manara Square, one of the main streets in downtown Ramallah. (Michal Fattal/Flash90)

Only 14% of Palestinians said that if the US were to put forward a plan, their leadership should accept it “because it will certainly be better than the status quo,” according to the survey. 

US officials, including Jason Greenblatt — Trump’s special representative for international negotiations — have said that they have been working on a plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

When pollsters asked which party is responsible for the worsening conditions in the Gaza Strip, 43% of Palestinians said the PA, 24% answered Hamas, 8% responded Egypt and 17% stated “others.”

The PA annually allocates hundreds of millions of dollars to Gaza, but for more than the past year and a half it has cut some of its budget for the Strip in an attempt to pressure Hamas to cede control of the coastal territory. 

Employees of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and their families protest against job cuts announced by the agency outside its offices in Gaza City on July 31, 2018. (AFP Photo/Said Khatib)

Hamas took over Gaza in 2007 after ousting the Fatah-dominated PA. Israel and Egypt control the land and sea crossings between Gaza and the outside world and maintain a blockade that they say is meant to prevent Hamas — a terror group bent on destroying Israel — from expanding its military capabilities.

Moreover, 62% of Palestinians said they want Abbas to resign, while 32% prefer that he stay in office, the poll also found, figures that are reminiscent of a PCPSR poll conducted in late June and early July.

In addition to PA president, Abbas, 83, also holds the titles of PLO chairman and Fatah chief.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh gives a speech on the first Friday of the holy month of Ramadan on May 18, 2018, at the Great Mosque in Gaza City. (AFP Photo/Mohammed Abed)

In presidential elections with only Abbas and Hamas politburo chief Ismail Haniyeh on the ballot, 47% said the would vote for the former and 45% for the latter. Those numbers also recall the poll conducted earlier this year.

Palestinian presidential elections have not been held since 2005, when Abbas was elected to a four-year term.

Palestinian officials have argued that holding presidential elections now, while the West Bank and Gaza are not under one government, would further cement the division between the two territories.

A number of reconciliation agreements between Fatah and Hamas over the past several years that call for holding presidential and parliamentary elections have not been implemented.

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