According to a survey published by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research that was conducted between March 8 and 11, “In light of the recent events in Huwara and the northern West Bank, Palestinian public attitudes become more militant as support for armed struggle rises, support for the two-state solution drops, and the vast majority opposes the Aqaba meeting. Parallel to that, trust in the PA declines, demand for the resignation of president Abbas rises, and for the first time since the creation of the PA, a majority says that its dissolution or collapse serves the interest of the Palestinian people.”
“The findings of the first quarter of 2023 indicate that the internal factional balance of power remains unchanged, with parity between Fatah and Hamas, if new parliamentary elections were to take place today, and a majority vote for Hamas’ candidate, Ismail Haniyyeh, over Mahmud Abbas in presidential elections. Satisfaction with president Abbas drops four percentage points and the demand for resignation increases by two points,” according to the PCPSR.
Armed escalation, security coordination, the Aqaba meeting, and a third intifada (direct quotes):
- A vast majority of 73% are against and only 21% are in favor of the Palestinian attendance of the Aqaba meeting which took place last month to stop the escalation of the armed conflict in the West Bank.
- 84% think Israel will not honor its commitments in the Aqaba meeting; only 12% think Israel will implement its commitments.
- 64% say that now, after the Aqaba meeting, they are less optimistic regarding possible improvement in Palestinian-Israeli relations, such as the prospects for the implementation of confidence-building measures or the slowing down of settlement expansion next year; only 8% say they are more optimistic and 24% say they are neither more nor less optimistic.
- 68% of the public (71% in the Gaza Strip and 66% in the West Bank) say they are in favor of forming armed groups such as the “Lions’ Den,” which do not take orders from the PA and are not part of the PA security services; 25% are against that.
- Nonetheless, 52% are worried that the formation of such armed groups could lead to armed clashes with the PA security services; 44% are not worried.
- 83% say they are against the surrender of the armed groups’ members and their arms to the PA to receive protection against Israeli assassination; 12% say they are for it.
The vast majority (87%) say the PA does not have the right to arrest a member of these armed groups to prevent them from carrying out attacks against Israel or to provide them with protection; only 8% say they favor it.
- A majority of 58% expect these armed groups to expand and spread to other areas in the West Bank; 15% expect Israel to succeed in arresting or killing their members; and 14% expect the PA to succeed in containing or coopting these groups.
- A majority of 61% (69% in the West Bank and 48% in the Gaza Strip) expect security conditions in the West Bank to continue to escalate leading to the eruption of a third armed intifada; 36% say they do not expect a third intifada.
- If security conditions escalate further or if a third intifada were to erupt, a majority of 62% do not expect the PA security services to join forces with the Palestinian armed groups; 33% say they expect them to do so.
- A majority of 56% says they do not expect the PA to deploy its security forces in the Jenin refugee camp or the old city of Nablus and other areas in which armed groups have recently been formed to enforce law and order and ensure “one authority-one gun” by disarming these groups and arresting their member in return for concessions that Israel might provide; 37% say they expect the PA to do so.
- If the PA attempted to disarm the newly created armed groups, a majority of 59% think that members of these groups will use their arms to resist the PA security services; 8% think they will surrender; and 23% think they will resist the PA but non-violently.
A majority of 63% say it supports the ending of security coordination with Israel that was announced recently by the PA while 32% say they are opposed to it. But the overwhelming majority (79%) think the PA did not really suspend security coordination with Israel; only 13% think it did.
- The vast majority (77%) think Israel will not stop its army incursions into PA territories to encourage the PA to return to security coordination; 18% think Israel will do so. 61% think the PA will not return to security coordination if Israel continued its daily incursions while 32% think the PA will resume security coordination even if the Israeli army incursions continue.
- 70% (73% in the West Bank and 66% in the Gaza Strip) believe the Israeli measures aimed at punishing Palestinian attackers and their families, such as demolishing their homes, expelling them, or imposing the death penalty, will lead to greater armed attacks; 8% think these measures will lead to lesser attacks; and 20% think they will have no impact on armed attacks.
The shooting in Huwara (direct quotes):
- A large majority of 71% say they support the shooting of two settlers in Huwara while 21% express opposition to this and similar armed attacks.
- Three-quarters (75%) believe the settlers’ terror attack on Huwara after the killing of the two settlers is an expression of the policy of the Israeli government and army while 20% think it is an expression of the behavior of the extreme settlers only.
- Two-thirds (67%) expect increased settlers attacks under the current right-wing Israeli government, but 16% say there will be fewer attacks, and 14% think the frequency of settlers’ attacks will remain unchanged.
- When asked why the PA police and other security services were unable to protect the residents of Huwara and other towns located in area B of the West Bank, even though the PA has jurisdiction over law enforcement in such areas, the public was divided into four groups. One group of 32% thinks the PA leadership and government prefer to maintain security coordination with Israel over protecting its own people. A second group, of 27%, thinks the PA police and national security forces do not wish to engage the Israeli army in an armed confrontation. A third group, 24%, thinks the PA police do not have jurisdiction over the settlers and cannot arrest them. A fourth group, of 11%, thinks the settlers’ attacks occur during the night when the PA police are not present in the targeted areas.
- When asked what should the PA do to protect the residents of Huwara and other towns located in area B of the West Bank, the largest percentage (39%) says it should form civil guards units made up of volunteers from these towns; 27% say it should build police stations or place permanent police units in these areas; 13% say it should complain to the UN and the International Criminal Court; and 9% say it should issue statements of condemnation.
- In light of the call by Smotrich, the Israeli minister of finance, to wipe out the town of Huwara, a large minority of 44% expects the Israeli government to commit massacres and force a mass expulsion of Palestinians if and when Palestinian armed attacks expand; but a majority of 53% says it does not expect that.
Most vital PA Arab goals and the main problems confronting PA Arabs today (direct quotes):
- 37% believe that the first most vital Palestinian goal should be to end Israeli occupation in the areas occupied in 1967 and build a Palestinian state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip with East Jerusalem as its capital. By contrast, 31% believe the first and most vital goal should be to obtain the right of return of refugees to their 1948 towns and villages, 16% believe that the first and most vital goal should be to build a pious or moral individual and a religious society, one that applies all Islamic teachings and 15% believes it should be to establish a democratic political system that respects freedoms and rights of Palestinians.
- In a question about the main problem confronting Palestinian society today, the largest percentage, 26% (12% in the Gaz Strip and 35% in the West Bank), say it is corruption; 21% (26% in the Gaza Strip and 18% in the West Bank) say it is unemployment and poverty; 20% say it is the continuation of the occupation and settlement construction; 16% (26% in the Gaza Strip and 9% in the West Bank) say it is continued siege and blockade of the Gaza Strip; 11% say it is the split between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip; and 4% say it is the weakness of the judiciary and the absence of liberties, accountability, and democracy.
- When asked about the most pressing problem confronting the Palestinians today, the largest percentage (38%) said it is the Israeli occupation, while 24% said it is corruption, 15% said it is the split or division, 13% said it is unemployment, and 5% said it is the internal violence.