Photo Credit: Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90
An Arab youth put the portrait of United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed and Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa on a donkey during a protest outside Shechem, September 18, 2020.

If new presidential elections were held today and only two were nominated, Mahmoud Abbas and Ismail Haniyeh, the former would receive 39% and the latter 52% of the vote (compared to 42% for Abbas and 49% for Haniyeh threw months ago), according to a poll published last week by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PCPSR).

In the Gaza Strip, Abbas receives 32% of the vote and Haniyeh receives 62%. In the PA, Abbas receives 46% and Haniyeh 42% (compared to 38% three months ago).

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If the competition was between Marwan Barghouti and Ismail Haniyeh, Barghouti receives 55% and Haniyeh 39%.

Ismael Haniyeh and Mahmoud Abbas. (Archive: 2017) / Palestinian Press Office

The September 2020 poll shows great anger in the Arab public in Gaza and the PA over the UAE’s decision to normalize relations with Israel, which respondents view as serving only the interests of Israel and as a betrayal or an abandonment of the “Palestinian cause.” But they also assign blame to their leaders, seeing the treaty as a big failure of PA diplomacy.

Indeed, the overwhelming majority of respondents believe their leadership has lost Arab allies such as Saudi Arabia, who will soon follow the UAE in normalizing relations, and that Egypt, by endorsing the deal, has in effect abandoned PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas. Still, most respondents believe that the majority of the Arab public is opposed to the normalization deal.

Ironically, PA Arabs responding to the survey ignore the fact that they had normalized relations with Israel before anyone on the Arab peninsula had even dreamed about it, and that their Oslo deal with Israel hastened the arrival of the day of Israeli acceptance by other Arab states.

Also, the Arab public in Gaza and the PA does not show an appreciation of the fact that the UAE-Israel deal achieved the de facto suspension of the Netanyahu “annexation” plan. Three-quarters of respondents think the suspension is only temporary and will soon take place anyway, normalization deal notwithstanding. And based on this assessment, the public is opposed to the restoration of PA-Israel security coordination despite the fact that half of the public wishes to restore civil and fiscal relations with Israel.

You don’t have to be schizophrenic to live in the Middle East, but it helps.

The PCPSR survey also shows a significant decline in support for the two-state solution compared to three months ago. They also show that the consensus in rejecting the Trump plan, the deal of the century, first documented in the PCPSR February 2020 poll, remains unchanged. Similarly, the overwhelming majority remains opposed to a resumption of contacts with the Trump administration. Despite the majority expectation that Trump will lose the upcoming US presidential elections, only 20% expect favorable policy changes should the Democratic candidate Joe Biden wins.

Demand for the resignation of president Abbas rises in this poll, and satisfaction with the performance of the president has declined. This was likely the result of the current economic difficulties in the PA following Abbas’ severing of civil and fiscal coordination with Israel which made the PA unable to pay the full salaries of its civil servants. Findings also show a drop in the perception of safety and security in the PA and an increase in the desire to emigrate. But despite these findings, the popularity of Fatah is not negatively impacted – to the contrary, the findings show a little improvement in its popularity.

Like we said, schizophrenia.

The survey indicates great worries about the future in case of the continued severing of relations with Israel. For example, 74% say they are worried that Israel will stop the transfer of clearance revenues, which would mean that the PA would not be able to pay the public sector. 75% say they are worried that patients would not be able to travel from the Gaza Strip to the PA or to Israel for medical treatment. 77% are worried that they would soon witness shortages or complete cut-off in supplies of water and electricity from Israel. 59% are worried that armed clashes would erupt with Israel. Another 59% are worried that the PA would collapse or fail to deliver services. 70% are worried that security chaos and anarchy would return to Palestinian life. Finally, 60% say they are worried that they would not be able to travel abroad via Jordan.

It’s interesting to note that despite these great worries, a majority of the public (63%) does not believe that the PA has in fact ended security coordination with Israel and only 30% believe it indeed did. And they are probably right.

Support for the concept of a two-state solution declines to 39% and opposition to it stands at 58%. No description or details were provided for the concept. Three months ago, support for the concept stood at 45%.

A majority of 62% believe that the two-state solution is no longer practical or feasible due to the expansion of Israeli settlements while 31% believe that the solution remains practical. But a resounding 77% believe that the chances for the creation of a Palestinian state alongside the state of Israel in the next five years are slim or nonexistent while 20% believe the chances to be medium or high.

The most preferred way out of the current status quo is “reaching a peace agreement with Israel” according to 27% of the public. An alarming 36% prefer waging “an armed struggle against the Israeli occupation.” 14% prefer “waging a non-violent resistance” and 14% prefer to keep the status quo. Three months ago, 28% said that they prefer reaching a peace agreement with Israel and 38% said they prefer waging an armed struggle.

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