Palestinians Want Jobs, Not U.N. Declaration of a State, Poll Shows

Washington, July 21 – Palestinians want their leaders to focus on creating jobs and improving health care and education, but almost none see the current drive for a unilateral declaration of statehood as a top priority, a new poll sponsored by The Israel Project has found.

In the poll (ChartsFrequency Questionnaire) of 1,010 Palestinians (353 in Gaza and 656 in the West Bank) conducted this month by Stanley Greenberg of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research with Palestinian research partner, Palestinian Center for Public Opinion, respondents were asked to name the top two priorities for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. More than 80 percent cited creating new jobs, while only 4 percent identified current Palestinian efforts to declare Palestinian statehood via the United Nations. In the effort to create those jobs, providing microfinance that can give seed money for starting new companies was cited by 44 percent as the most helpful potential action.

In considering their political leadership, 51 percent in Gaza and 59 percent in the West Bank gave Iranian-backed Hamas a negative rating. Iran’s image also has worsened since the most recent TIP survey of Palestinians conducted last October. Some 77 percent of Palestinians now have a cold, unfavorable feeling toward Tehran while 73 percent agree that “Iran and its president, Ahmadinejad, care about themselves and their own agenda” rather than being friends of the Palestinian people. Only 47 percent thought this last October.

Positive job approval ratings for Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and for Abbas have risen to approximately 70 percent. In a hypothetical election held today, Abbas’ Fatah Party would trounce Hamas by nearly three-to-one, and no other party would receive more than 5 percent support.

In considering dealings with Israel, two-thirds of Palestinians support diplomatic engagement over “violent resistance.” However, 30 percent spread evenly between the two Palestinian territories said they felt that “now is a time for violent resistance.” Those who support violence are more likely to watch Al Jazeera and Al Manar TV networks than those who prefer diplomatic engagement. 

Taking into account Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s declaration that “he would not consider any plan that divides Jerusalem and that Palestinian refugees should settle in Palestine, not Israel,” a majority of Palestinians still support returning to negotiations. Also, two-thirds oppose a Third Intifada, and only 14 percent said they would get involved in such an uprising.

In considering the moral “right” and “wrong” of a list of different actions, most Palestinians disapprove of violence against civilians; 59 percent said that it was “wrong” to fire rockets at Israeli cities and citizens, and 42 percent said that the killings in Itamar were “wrong.” However 29 percent said the murders of five family members including three children in a West Bank settlement on March 11, 2011 were “right.” 

A majority of Palestinians do justify violence against Israeli soldiers, with 62 percent saying it is “right” to kidnap and hold Israeli soldiers hostage. This is further reinforced when asked specifically about the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit, who has been held prisoner in Gaza for more the five years without any contact with the outside world, including humanitarian organizations such as the Red Cross; here, 56 percent favored his kidnapping and 51 percent opposed his release.

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. 

Asked to comment on specific clauses of the Hamas Charter, more than 70 percent of Palestinians agreed with the section that says, “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.”

However, a plurality of 48 percent did not agree with the following passage from charter: “Peace initiatives, the so-called peaceful solutions, and the international conferences to resolve the Palestinian problem, are all contrary to the beliefs of the Islamic Resistance Movement. There is no solution to the Palestinian problem except by Jihad.” Significantly, two-thirds DO believe this statement in Gaza, while a majority in the West Bank does NOT.

Support for a two-state solution, in which Israel and Palestine would exist side by side, has dropped in the past nine months. Whereas 60 percent said they would accept a two-state solution in October 2010, 52 percent now say they will not accept such a solution. 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.”

The survey was conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research with the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion on behalf of The Israel Project. The respondents were interviewed face-to-face, June 22-July 8, 2011. The margin of error for the survey is 3.1%.

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