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Poll: Palestinians pessimistic about peace talks, national reconciliation, general future

Nov. 20, 2016 4:52 P.M. (Updated: Nov. 20, 2016 9:49 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- The majority of Palestinians, to various degrees, remain pessimistic regarding peace talks with Israel and reconciliation between the Fatah and Hamas movements, according to a recent public opinion poll.

The poll, conducted by the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion (PCPO), was released on Wednesday and covered a random sample of 1,000 Palestinian respondents ages 18 and above, living in the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza Strip.

According to the poll, 53.5 percent of the Palestinian public oppose the return to the direct negotiations with Israel after Israel’s denial of the French initiative, which called for a multilateral international peace conference between Israel and the Palestinians.

Dr. Nabil Kukali, president and founder of the PCPO, said in a statement that the denial of the French initiative by Israel resulted in increased distrust among Palestinians regarding Israel’s commitment to finding “a radical and just solution to end the conflict and build bridges of trust between the two sides.”

Kukali asserted that the Israeli government’s denial of the French peace initiative “undermined a real opportunity to help both sides return to the negotiation table,” highlighting that the poll showed that around 70 percent of the Palestinian public did not trust Netanyahu’s commitment to a two-state solution.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) has repeatedly expressed support for the French initiative, and in April shelved the submission of a new anti-settlement resolution to the UN out of fear that doing so could thwart progress of new French proposals, causing outrage among various Palestinian political factions.

Despite the seeming disappointment with Israel’s refusal to accept the French peace talks, the poll showed that a majority of Palestinians did not believe the French initiative would prove to be fruitful for Palestinians.

When asked “in your view, would the French initiative meet the Palestinian requirements in the peace process?,” only 35.2 percent said “yes,” while 41 percent said “no,” and 23.8 percent said “I don’t know.”

Kukali further concluded that the Palestinian public was deeply pessimistic about the prospect of achieving a reconciliation between the Fatah and Hamas movements, with 51.1 percent saying they were pessimistic, 29.2 percent saying they were optimistic, and 19.7 percent saying they were unsure.

The relationship between Hamas and Fatah has been in a dire state after a government of national consensus was dissolved in June 2015, one year after it was first announced.

The two Palestinian parties have had particularly tense relations since Hamas won legislative elections in 2006 and became the ruling party in the Gaza Strip.

Meanwhile, municipal elections set to be held earlier last month were postponed following a controversial decision by the Fatah-run Supreme Court in Ramallah. They were to be the first elections in the Gaza Strip in a decade.

When asked if they were optimistic or pessimistic about the general future given the current economic and political situation of Palestine, 59.2 percent said they were pessimistic, 25.1 percent said they were optimistic and 15.7 said they were unsure.

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