Elliott Abrams: What Do Palestinians and Israelis Want?

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Palestinian militants pray after attending a military parade in Gaza on October 19. Elliott Abrams writes that 38 percent of Palestinians favor an armed intifada against Israel. Suhaib Salem/reuters

This article first appeared on the Council on Foreign Relations site.

What are Israelis and Palestinians thinking about their own situations, about each other and about peace? Two new October polls give us additional insight.

Tel Aviv University has just put out its Peace Index. There we learn that Israeli Jews favor renewing peace negotiations with the Palestinians (66 percent to 31 percent) but don't believe anything will come of them. Twenty-five percent believe the negotiations will lead to peace "in the coming years," while 71 percent do not.

An-Najah National University in Nablus, in the West Bank, has just published Palestinian Public Opinion Poll No. 53, focusing mostly on Palestinian politics. Like Israelis, Palestinians are pessimists about a peace agreement: 33 percent of respondents believed there is a possibility for the creation of a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders, while 61.5 percent said that there is no such possibility.

If there is no such possibility, what do they want? People can of course choose inconsistent or multiple answers, but there are some interesting results.

Thirty-eight percent favor an armed intifada, which is a very big number even if 56 percent reject that option. Thirty-one percent said that "the current political, security and economic circumstances compel them to desire to emigrate."

Forty-six percent favor "the creation of a confederation with Jordan on the basis of two independent states with strong institutional relations." The very notion of a confederation with Jordan is vigorously rejected by many Palestinian and Jordanian officials, but the idea just does not seem to die.

Given the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement, it is also worth noting the results when it comes to Palestinian boycotts of Israeli goods. Seventy-five percent of Palestinians "supported boycotting Israeli goods and products," but they do not practice what they preach.

Thirteen percent of the respondents said that they buy Israeli products in all cases, 37 percent said they buy Palestinian products in all cases, and nearly half, 46.5 percent, said they "buy according to the quality of the item regardless of its origin."

On Palestinian politics, a majority opposes the recent postponement of elections and believes their rights as citizens (to vote) are being abridged. Asked to predict the outcome had elections been held, roughly half say that Fatah would have won in the West Bank and that Hamas would have won in Gaza.

A final and bizarre note: Palestinians blame the Brits for everything! Asked "Do you consider Britain responsible for the catastrophes that befell the Palestinian people?," 79 percent say yes, and only 14 percent don't agree.

Logically, then, 75 percent say yes when asked "Do you support or reject a call from President Mahmoud Abbas on Britain to accept the historical, legal, political, material and moral responsibilities relating to the consequences of the Balfour Declaration, including offering an apology to the Palestinian people for the catastrophes and injustice committed against them?"

May I summarize? "The Brits are to blame for the mess we are in, and no peace deal is possible, so let's have an intifada, or anyway get me out of here, or let's at least have a confederation with Jordan." John Kerry, call your office.

Elliott Abrams is a senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Elliott Abrams: What Do Palestinians and Israelis Want? | Opinion
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