Sunday, June 20, 2010

Good News, Bad News

The good news is that despite everything, a majority of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza still want a peace agreement with Israel, (i.e. a two state solution) and believe that non-violent resistance (i.e. demonstrations, BDS, blockade running, combined with negotiations) is the best way to achieve it. The bad news is that 27% don't, and that we can assume that that number is larger among the large Palestinian refugee communities in Lebanon and Syria. And we can safely assume that many of this later group are quite radical.

According to a recent poll (taken between February and May, and before the flotilla fiasco) 73% of Palestinians on the West Bank and Gaza want a negotiated peace with Israel. 61% want a cessation of all rocket attacks on Israel. Most of those who had an opinion said they had more confidence in Fatah than in Hamas (though 30% expressed no opinion, and another, unspecified, percentage said neither.) 84% said they believed Fatah would win, if elections where held soon.

On the other hand - 27% do not want a negotiated settlement with Israel. Mahmoud Zahar - Hamas' Gaza based "foreign minister" was recently quoted as saying that rockets should be fired on Israel from the West Bank as well as Gaza. He goes on to accuse Abbas and Fatah of being qisslings and in the pocket of Israel. He also stressed that Hamas would never change its policy, even if it won the next elections, saying that the solution lies in "resistance."

"If we had been interested in forfeiting our rights, I would have been in Washington by now," Zahar told the Arabic newspaper, Al Quds.

Meanwhile in Lebanon, Yasser Kashlak, a Syrian-Palestinian businessman who heads the “Free Palestine Organization” and is funding a Lebanese Flotilla, said over the weekend on Hizbullah’s al-Manar television station that he was more and more optimistic that one day these same boats would take “Europe’s refuse [the Jews] that came to my homeland back to their homelands.

“Gilad Schalit should go back to Paris and those murderers go back to Poland, and after that we will chase them until the ends of the earth to bring them to justice for their acts of slaughter from Deir Yassin until today.” Kashlak, a fervent Hizbullah supporter, called Israel a “rabid dog sent to the region to frighten the Arabs. He said he had a message for Israelis: ‘Get on the ships we are sending you and go back to your lands. Don’t let the moderate Arab leaders delude you, [you] cannot make peace with us. Our children will return to Palestine, you have no reason for coexistence. Even if our leaders will sign a peace agreement, we will not sign."

What the Israeli leadership must consider - as they refuse to significantly ease the blockade on Gaza, as they hang tough in the negotiations with Abbas, as they continue to confiscate Arabs' lands with the separation wall and settlements, as they continue displacing Arabs in Jerusalem, as they answer every threat with force and counter threats - is whose hand are they strengthening? - the 73% of Palestinians who are willing to accept Israel given a reasonable compromise, or the 27% who reject that possibility. Israel's policies and hasbara seem exclusively to deal with the later.

I sometimes get the feeling that the Israeli leadership would be happier if a clear majority of Palestinians where like Zahar and and Kashlik. Then they could more easily justify continuing on the hard nosed path.


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