Just 5 Percent of Palestinians Want Unconditional Peace Talks

The Palestinians have refused to hold direct peace talks with Israel for more than two years unless Israel meets their preconditions, and if the Palestinian people have any say in it, that won’t change any time soon. A new poll shows that only 5.2 percent of Palestinians believe in resuming talks with Israel without preconditions, which Israel has long requested.

According to a report from the WAFA Palestinian news agency, a solid two-thirds of those polled by the Jerusalem Media and Communications Center (JMCC) said that the Palestinians should only resume peace talks if Israel stops settlement growth. Israel actually imposed a 10-month partial freeze on their own settlement construction in 2009, but the Palestinians refused to engage Israel directly until the building stoppage was nearing its end.

After Israel chose not to extend the moratorium, the Palestinians suspended negotiations with Israel at the time and have not revived them since. Israel has long argued that settlements are not a roadblock to peace, since almost all of them are in territory expected to be retained by Israel in any deal, and Israel has already proven in Gaza their willingness to pull out from settlements.

While peace with Israel faces some roadblocks, the new poll says more than 90 percent of Palestinians believe that the Fatah political faction led by President Mahmoud Abbas should reconcile with the Hamas terrorist group—even if such a move results in sanctions form the US or Israel. The two main Palestinian groups have been divided since 2007.

The Palestinian poll, released on Wednesday, shows that US Secretary of State John Kerry will likely face quite a challenge to convince the sides to restart talks. Kerry just wrapped a series of separate conversations with Israel and the Palestinians, which he described as “very constructive talks.”

In comments released by the US State Department, Kerry said of the sides, “Each of them made very serious and well-considered, constructive suggestions with respect to what the road forward might look like. And they all embraced the goal that we all share here. So this effort is not just about getting the parties back into direct negotiations, it’s about getting everybody in the best position to succeed.”

Kerry said steps to set up renewed talks were discussed, specifically mentioning efforts to “promote” economic growth for the Palestinians.

Meanwhile, the new Palestinian poll had more mixed news for peace with Israel. While the numbers supporting military attacks on Israeli targets has dropped from a disturbing 50 percent in a poll in December, in the latest poll 31.1 percent still back violence.

As for the best means to get a Palestinians state, 36.8 percent of Palestinians said peaceful negotiations, while 30.4 percent said non-violent resistance. Roughly one quarter of Palestinians still say armed resistance is the best means, while 60 percent of Palestinians say that their interests are harmed by military operations.

(By Joshua Spurlock, www.themideastupdate.com, April 10, 2013)