Palestinians do not trust the US, survey finds

Palestinian wave their national flag and shout slogans against the US-led Bahrain Conference (EPA)

Miriam Berger

The National  /  July 4, 2019

The survey followed the US-led Bahrain economic conference last month, and also saw support rise for President Mahmoud Abbas

Nine out of 10 Palestinians do not trust the US, a poll released on Wednesday by the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research suggests.

The quarterly poll was conducted last month, just after the US-led Bahrain economic conference, which the Palestinian leadership rejected as biased in Israel’s favour.

The US touted the event as the first step in their plan to end the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Three quarters of the 1,200 surveyed said they wanted the Palestinian leadership to reject the US’s Middle East peace deal and did not expect the economic plan to lead to growth.

Only 4 per cent of respondents wanted to accept the US peace plan without reservation.

“Palestinians think the Trump administration is out to get them, not to help them,” pollster Dr Khalil Shikaki said.

“Our findings clearly indicate that quarter after quarter, Palestinian attitudes regarding the US administration have become more hardline.

“The rejection of the US administration is higher than we have ever seen it before. The administration is failing miserably to reach out to the Palestinian public to perhaps try to convince them of what it’s trying to do.”

Dr Shikaki said that another significant finding from the poll was that support for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has increased to its highest rate in five years.

In 2018, 70 per cent said they wanted to see the resignation of Mr Abbas, now in his 14th year as leader in what was supposed to be a four-year term, but that has dropped to 57 per cent.

For five years, a slim majority of respondents said they would pick Hamas leader Ismail Haniya if presidential elections were held, but in the last two quarters Mr Abbas received a slim majority.

Dr Shikaki attributed this to Mr Abbas standing up to the US and Israel over the Bahrain conference, and the tax standoff between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Mr Abbas has refused to take owed taxes from Israel after the occupying country said it would deduct an amount equal to that given by the PA to Palestinians jailed for planning or carrying out attacks on Israel.

“The Trump administration is making Mr Abbas more liked by Palestinians, rather than the opposite,” Dr Shikaki said, referring to the US government’s frequent criticisms of Mr Abbas and accusations that the PA was corrupt.

“Clearly, the administration is failing to create a gap between them.”

While 25 years ago, 80 per cent of Palestinians supported a two-state solution as laid out in the Oslo peace accords, only 47 per cent of the poll’s respondents said they did now.

Dr Shikaki said the public increasingly regards a two-state solution as “unfeasible”, given developments such as the growth of illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank, the Israeli government’s tilt towards the extreme right, and actions such as US President Donald Trump’s moving of the US embassy to Jerusalem.

Most of those polled (60 per cent) said they expected Israel to annex parts of the West Bank and that they believed there was a slim chance of creating a Palestinian state separate from Israel (71 per cent) in the next five years.

Only a small majority of 36 per cent said they thought the solution to the conflict was to reach a peace deal with Israel rather than through armed struggle.