Palestinian two-state support at 39% after Israel-UAE deal, Shikaki says

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Palestinians believe that the Israeli-Arab normalization is part of the US plan to push forward its two-state peace initiative, which they have overwhelmingly rejected, Shikaki said.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas meets with Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit (not pictured) in Cairo, Egypt January 31, 2020 (photo credit: REUTERS/MOHAMED ABD EL GHANY)

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas meets with Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit (not pictured) in Cairo, Egypt January 31, 2020

(photo credit: REUTERS/MOHAMED ABD EL GHANY)

Palestinian support for the two-state solution has hit a nine-year low, dropping to 39% in the aftermath of the announcement of the Israeli-United Arab Emirates normalization deal, political scientist Khalil Shikaki told the Jerusalem Press Club on Monday morning.

The data was based on a poll of 1,270 Palestinians on September 9-12, just prior to the Washington signing, and had a margin of error of 3%, he said.

A similar poll done in June of Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem showed 45% support for two states. In 2011, 55% of Palestinians favored two states, Shikaki said. A decade earlier, support was over 70%, he said.

Support for a one-state solution this June increased to its highest point in that same period, 37%, he said.

In 2011, 27% of Palestinians supported a one-state resolution, compared with 55% who favored two states, said Shikaki, who directs the Ramallah-based Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research.

“There is no doubt that we see a correlation” between Palestinian perception with regard to the two-state solution and the Arab normalization deals with Israel, he said.

On Monday, the government ratified the UAE deal, which now moves to the Knesset for a vote.

Palestinians say the deals create “an environment in which Israel does not need to compromise with the Palestinians in order to have normalization with the Arab world,” Shikaki said.

“This [deal], Palestinians believe, gives Israel the freedom to pursue its settlement expansion policy, and that makes a two-state solution less and less likely,” he said.

Feasibility of the two-state solution is an important factor in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Shikaki said.
“If you think it’s feasible, you are more likely to support it; if you think it’s no longer feasible, you are much less likely to support it,” he said. “Those who are abandoning the two-state solution and supporting the one-state solution are not doing so because of fundamental changes in attitude, values or ideology, but rather because of perception. If you change that perception, that can have an immediate impact.”

Palestinians believe Israeli-Arab normalization is part of the US plan to push forward its two-state peace initiative, which they have overwhelmingly rejected, Shikaki said.

The majority of Palestinians believe US President Donald Trump will lose the November 3 presidential election, but they do not believe a victory by Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden would make much of a difference with respect to US policy toward the Palestinians, he said.

The perception is that US support for Israel “is fundamental and it does not make a difference who wins” the presidential election, Shikaki said. He had thought the Trump presidency would have shown the Palestinians the opposite, but that assumption proved to be erroneous, he said.

Shikaki said he believes Biden would oppose annexation, and if he were in the White House, the Palestinian Authority would resume ties with Israel.

Palestinian perception of the US could also shift at that point, he said.

For the Palestinians, the Israeli-UAE deal is “a major negative development,” Shikaki said.

Their concern is that this is a “major loss of Arab allies,” particularly Saudi Arabia, which Palestinians believe will eventually sign a normalization deal with Israel, he said. Similarly, they are upset by Egyptian support, even though Egypt has had a peace deal with Israel since 1979, he added.

More than half of the Palestinians blame themselves for this “because they, too, had normalized relations with Israel before it had ended its occupation,” Shikaki said.

Palestinians also believe the failure of Hamas and Fatah to reconcile means “they have not been able to give the Arab world a picture of a people who are striving to end the occupation in an effective manner, and that is part of the reason for all of this,” he said.
PA President Mahmoud Abbas is also perceived to be at fault and has lost public support due to the deal because Arab leaders who have now smiled on Israel are the same ones Abbas had good relations with, Shikaki said.

The September poll shows that if elections were held, Abbas would lose to Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, who had the support of 52%, compared with 39% for the PA president.

The issue is more Abbas than Haniyeh, Shikaki said, because the poll showed that jailed Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti would defeat both men in an election.

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