Poll: Only 9% of Palestinians think Trump can restart peace talks

Survey shows deep skepticism of US president; 38% say new administration will aggravate tensions with Israel

Jason Greenblatt, Donald Trump's special representative for international negotiations, in the West Bank city of Ramallah on March 14, 2017. (Flash90)
Jason Greenblatt, Donald Trump's special representative for international negotiations, in the West Bank city of Ramallah on March 14, 2017. (Flash90)

The vast majority of Palestinians believe US President Donald Trump’s policies will ramp up Israeli-Palestinian tensions or contribute to stagnation, according to a poll published on Tuesday.

According to a survey by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, only 9 percent believe Trump will be able to relaunch Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.

Some 38% said the Trump administration would aggravate Palestinian tensions with Israel, contributing to a flare-up of violence in the wake of an expected push in West Bank settlement building.

If the new US administration would call on the Palestinians to return to negotiations with Israel without preconditions, 58% of respondents believe Palestinian leadership should reject the initiative. Some 31 percent, meanwhile, said the Palestinians should heed the call.

The poll was published as Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas hosted visiting Trump envoy Jason Greenblatt to discuss stalled peace efforts with Israel.

The survey among 1,270 respondents had a margin of error of ±3%.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) meets with Jason Greenblatt, US President Donald Trump’s special representative for international negotiations, at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, March 13, 2017. (Matty Stern/US Embassy Tel Aviv)

Trump’s election has sparked deep concern among Palestinians, who have repeatedly denounced the US president’s campaign promise to relocate the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Trump, however, has recently signaled a shift from his previous blanket support of Israeli policies, and last month publicly asked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to “hold back” on settlement building.

On Monday, Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said Trump would make a “historic” offer during Abbas’s expected trip to Washington early next month.

Erekat told the Al-Khaleej news site the details of the proposal would include a halt in settlement expansion and a commitment not to relocate the US Embassy.

This will be in exchange for the Palestinians reentering negotiations with Israel — in a summit to be hosted in Amman with the two parties, as well as the US and Jordan.

Erekat added that Abbas is likely to agree to the deal, saying that “he does not have any other choice.”

It is unclear whether Netanyahu would be able to agree to such terms, due to the current right-wing makeup of his government. The PM has reportedly opposed similar offers involving building freezes in the past.

Earlier on Monday, Greenblatt told Netanyahu that Trump hopes to work out an approach to settlement building that is consistent with the US goal of reaching a peace deal.

Greenblatt’s visit marks the first major attempt by the new US administration to address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, after two months that have seen officials dither on support for the two-state solution, the location of the US Embassy, and building in the settlements.

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