Palestinians Seek Statehood, but are They Ready for Peace?

Jerusalem, Sept. 20 - For the past several months, Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas and other PA officials have traveled the globe trying to persuade government leaders to support his unilateral bid for statehood. But Palestinians themselves are far from united behind his plan.

Opposition comes from both moderates, like Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, as well as the Iranian-backed terrorists who control the Gaza Strip.

Fayyad, who has done more than anyone else to build up the Palestinian economy in the West Bank, argued against going to the United Nations to win Palestinian membership. He tried to convince Abbas that such a move would be meaningless and would produce no progress toward a state. Fayyad and supporters like Ziad Asali of the American Task Force on Palestine agree that only peace negotiations with Israel can lead to a state, while the U.N. move risks reversing gains achieved by the Palestinians in recent years. But Abbas did not listen to his most effective colleague.

Abbas claims to speak for all Palestinians but his jurisdiction only extends to the West Bank. Iran-backed Hamas controls the Gaza Strip and its 1.3 million Palestinian residents. The terrorist group also constantly trying to make inroads into the West Bank, seeking to use that area, like Gaza, to carry out its goal to kill Israeli civilians and ultimately do away with the state of Israel.

A “reconciliation agreement” signed last April between Hamas and Abbas has not been implemented. Under the agreement, the sides said they would form a joint government and move toward elections next spring. But there has been no joint government and analysts believe there is scant chance of Hamas risking its control over Gaza in free and fair elections since polls show the Islamist movement would lose in a landslide.

Hamas officials have derided Abbas’ quest for unilateral statehood because they said it is a “tactical” move toward negotiations.

“Hamas and other factions are not part of this step and do not support it,” Salah al-Bardaweel, a senior Hamas leader in Gaza, said last week.

Hamas’ own charter calls for destroying Israel and killing all Jews. Article seven of the charter states, “The Day of Judgment will not come about until Muslims fight the Jews, when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Muslims, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him. Only the Gharkad tree, would not do that because it is one of the trees of the Jews.”

And the charter is more than just a piece of paper to Palestinians: A June 2011 poll of 1,010 West Bank and Gaza Palestinians found that more than 70 percent of them agreed with that section.

Additionally, the poll found that when asked more fundamental ideological questions surrounding Israel’s existence, 72 percent said it was “right” to deny Jews have a long history in Jerusalem;  61 percent endorsed naming streets after suicide bombers; and 53 percent said it was “right” to teach songs in Palestinian schools that talk about hating Jews.

Support for a two-state solution, in which Israel and the Palestinians would exist side by side, had dropped: Whereas 60 percent said they would accept a two-state solution in October 2010, 52 percent said in the June survey that they wouldn’t accept such a solution.

In fact, two-thirds claimed, “The real goal should be to start with two states but then move to it all being one Palestinian state.” And, 84 percent say that “Over time Palestinians must work to get back all the land for a Palestinian state.”

Additionally, Hamas has long had close ties to Iran and receives funding, training and weapons from the Islamic republic. Iran, like Hamas, seeks to do away with Israel altogether and has called for Israel to be “wiped off the map.” Its leaders deny the Holocaust occurred.

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