July 1, 2009, posted by Noam Shelef
(This blog was authored by APN Intern Elizabeth Goldstein)
The Jerusalem Media & Communications Centre conducted two polls this year of Palestinians: one in late January, one in late June. The surveys indicate that in general Palestinians seem to feel better about their leaders and the U.S. role now than earlier in the year. At the same time, indifference and distrust for all politicians is prominent when it comes to local politics, U.S. relations, and relations with Israel.
In June, a heavy focus of the poll was the efficacy of the government headed by Salam Fayyad and the efforts to resolve the schism between Hamas and Fatah (the majority think this dialogue will fail and 26.7% blame Israel for this potential failure; support for the Fayyad government is at 37.8%, the plurality of those polled).
The poll shows that following President Barack Obama’s speech in Cairo, 37.9% of Palestinians feel optimistic about Obama’s involvement in the Arab-Israeli conflict (up from 28.1% in January, which was at the time already a record high for any U.S. president ever). While the belief that Obama has had - and will continue to have - no effect on the conflict remains the view of the plurality (and this view has even increased among those polled in Gaza), the percentage of those pessimistic about U.S. relations with the Middle East has gone down considerably over this six-month period.
In addition to growing optimism, support for Fatah increased among Palestinians, 34.9% trust in Fatah’s ability to govern, a considerable jump from the January poll. In January, more Palestinians said they trusted Hamas (27.7%) than Fatah (26.0%). Their relative standing has now been reversed with 34.9% trusting Fatah and only 18.8% trusting Hamas. At the same time, Palestinians are more likely to trust no party at all than they are to trust either Fatah or Hamas, this was true for a plurality of Palestinians in January (29.4%) and in June (30.4%). West Bank residents were less likely to place their trust in any political party than Gazans.
The growing optimism may also be correlated with a rise in support for the two-state solution (from 54.8% to 55.2% support). Support for a binational state, while less popular, also grew (from 18.4% to 20.6%). All other answers decreased, including “Palestinian State” and “Islamic State,” which were not offered to interviewees, but were volunteered as solutions in both January and June.
Both polls surveyed just under 1200 people over the age of 18 randomly selected, 51.6% coming from the West Bank, 11.7% from Jerusalem, and 36.7% from Gaza.
Numbers don’t lie. Palestinians are incrementally more upbeat about their government, U.S. involvement, and even peace with Israel.