Poll of Palestinians portends worsening situation for peace
A recent poll of nearly 1,000 Palestinians by YouGov and Arab News reveals a disconcerting lack of faith that peace is possible, with most blaming Israeli and American bias and suggesting that the escalating violence will only worsen.
The fatalistic aspects of the survey suggest that Palestinian opinions are being driven by the surge in Israeli extremism, a product of Israeli elections last November that led to Israel’s most rightwing and violent anti-Palestinian government policies.
During the past six months, Israel has killed hundreds of Palestinians, with the tensions spiking in the past week.
Israel expanded its military assaults against Gaza targets, resulting in many civilian fatalities including women and children. Palestinians in Gaza responded with missiles targeting Israel, their only defense against Israeli airstrikes that have destroyed large civilian areas.
Rather than subsiding, violence on both sides continues to grow, with no strong international voices to mediate between them and de-escalate tensions.
The YouGov/Arab News poll shows Palestinians are not likely to end their stepped-up resistance to Israel’s violent assaults, suggesting that Israel’s military and armed settlers will not end their own violent attacks against Palestinians.
The poll shows that 86 percent of Palestinians surveyed believe the US has the most influence over Israel but that this influence is unsympathetic toward Palestinians and empowers Israel’s extremism.
That means Palestinians do not expect the US to step in and temper Israel’s violent provocations, which are fueling Palestinian responses.
Naturally, alternatives to American mediation for peace include other major powers, with most viewing Russia as a “fair mediator,” although 80 percent are rooting for China to step in and broker peace.
Neither Russia nor China, however, has taken any action to stop the conflict.
Worsening the situation, 51 percent of the Palestinians surveyed do not believe their own leadership can deliver a peace deal with Israel.
They seem to have no faith in the Arab world, which sidestepped Palestinian concerns to sign the Abraham Accords, resulting in only mediocre benefits for the Arab signatories. A majority of Palestinians, according to the YouGov/Arab News poll, believe that the Abraham Accords have actually opened the door to Israel’s aggressive policies against Palestinians.
Abraham Accord advocates have argued that establishing peace between Israel and influential Arab neighbors would create a climate in which peace with Palestinians could also be achieved, but the past six months of escalating violence squarely challenge that theory.
Despite all this turmoil and uncertainty among Palestinians, a slim majority continue to cling to the hope for a two-state solution in which a Palestinian state could be established notwithstanding Israel’s continued settlement expansions and land confiscations.
This shows that reviving the two-state solution could be one strategy to calm growing Palestinian anger and the violence that is a consequence of it.
The eye-opening YouGov/Arab News poll portends worse things yet for the region. Negative Palestinian attitudes are likely to worsen as the violence continues unabated, empowering Israel to be even more punitive in its violent assaults.
Despite some superficial actions to strengthen ties with Palestinians and the Arab world, President Joe Biden’s administration is incapable of pressuring Israel to tone down the violence and extremist government rhetoric.
Biden’s weakness is not only driving rival nations to challenge American leadership in other world theaters, such as in the escalating Russian-Ukraine war, but it is also provoking similar challenges to its ability to control the Middle East conflict.
Peace requires strong, convincing leadership. And right now, America, which has almost singlehandedly dominated the Middle East peace processes with only mediocre results, is showing it neither has the power nor the will to impose peace.
From the YouGov/Arab News poll, it is clear that Palestinians recognize this American flaw — and it is fueling their uncertainty.