72 percent of Palestinians support forming armed groups in West Bank, poll finds

Armed Palestinian men attend the funeral of Mohammad Herzalla in Nablus (Raneen Sawafta - Reuters)

Jack Khoury

Haaretz  /  December 15, 2022

Poll surveying Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank shows significant drop in support for the two-state solution alongside rising support for armed groups

A large majority of Palestinians supports the formation of armed groups in the cities of the West Bank, according to a poll surveying Palestinian public opinion on several issues.

The poll, conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research and released on Wednesday, found that 72 percent of respondents supported forming armed groups similar to the Lion’s Den, which is based around Nablus.

Twenty-two percent were opposed to the idea. In addition, 87 percent of respondents said the Palestinian Authority did not have the right to arrest members of such groups to prevent them from attacking Israeli military forces.

As for the potential expansion of such groups, 59 percent said they expected new ones to be established in other parts of the West Bank, while 15 percent thought Israel would manage to arrest or kill members of armed groups, and 14 percent thought the Palestinian Authority would manage to contain them.

The survey also found that 79 percent of respondents were opposed to members of armed groups surrendering and handing over their weapons to the PA in order to prevent their capture by Israel, while 17 percent supported the idea.

Khalil Shikaki, director of the research center, said the poll results suggest a clear shift in Palestinian public opinion, particularly in the West Bank, reflected in the growing support for armed struggle against Israel. Support for armed groups has risen conspicuously over the past three months, Shikaki said, as a consequence of the escalation of violence in the West Bank and the death toll, which is growing by the week.

He also noted another figure: support for a diplomatic resolution to the conflict with Israel in the framework of the two-state solution has receded over the course of three months, now standing at 32 percent, according to the poll. A decade ago, support was at 55 percent.

“We are seeing a fairly clear decline in the percentage who support the two-state solution, given the lack of diplomatic negotiations and the ongoing killings of Palestinians throughout the West Bank,” he said.

The poll also asked Palestinians about their opinions on the results in Israel’s November election. It found that 61 percent of respondents thought the presumed next government, headed by Benjamin Netanyahu, would be more extreme, while 30 percent thought there would be no difference compared to the current government.

Four percent said they thought the new government would be less extreme than the government formed by Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid. The rest had no opinion.

Concerns about expulsions are also evident in the poll, with 64 percent of respondents expecting the upcoming government to expel Palestinian families from East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood and 68 percent expecting Israel to expel the Palestinian Bedouin communities living in the area between Jerusalem and Jericho such as Jahalin and Khan al-Ahmar.

Fifty-eight percent thought the next government would act to change the status quo at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque, while 69 percent believed the government would also move to annex large parts of the West Bank.

The poll was conducted on December 7-10 and had a sample of 1,200 people representing Palestinians in both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The margin of error is 3 percent. The poll was conducted via personal meetings with the respondents, all of them adults, of whom 487 were from Gaza and 722 from the West Bank and East Jerusalem.