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As part of a continuing effort to determine the attitudes of the Palestinian and Israeli Jewish public on the potential for a non-violent Intifada, Search for Common Ground, an American and Belgian NGO, commissioned the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) at the University of Maryland to conduct surveys of each population group. The first poll was released in August 2000. The Jerusalem Media & Communications Center surveyed 599 Palestinians in face-to-face interviews over four days in November 2000. The interviews took place throughout the West Bank and Gaza, and included both urban and rural residents. The B.L. and Lucille Cohen Institute for Public Opinion Research of Tel Aviv University, polled the opinions of 508 Israeli Jews from November 24-26, 2002, by telephone. What follows is a summary of the study's most important findings.

Mistrust Blocks Willingness to Stop Violence as Part of Settlement Process Based on 1967 Borders

Palestinian respondents were first asked: "If Israel would agree to allow the establishment of a Palestinian state within the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, evacuate most of the settlements and negotiate in good faith on other final status issues, on condition that there was a period without violence against Israel, would you favor stopping violence for this period or would you favor continuing the violence?"
Forty-two percent said they would be willing to stop, while 48 percent would favor continuing the violence. Those who wanted to continue the violence were then asked,
"Is this because you do not believe that Israel would really agree to the establishment of a Palestinian state on terms acceptable to Palestinians, or because you favor continuing the violent struggle with the goal of gaining all of the territory of historic Palestine?"
Of this group, 62 percent (30 percent of the whole sample) said the reason they did not favor stopping the violence was that they did not believe Israel would really agree to the establishment of such a Palestinian state. Only 37 percent of this group (18 percent of the total sample) said they favored continuing the violent struggle with the goal of gaining all of the territory of historic Palestine.
Thus, it appears that, overall, 72 percent of the total sample would be ready to renounce violence in support of a two-state settlement if they were confident Israel would make the necessary concessions.
The response to this question does not clarify what terms would be acceptable to Palestinians, as it specified there would be negotiations on "final status issues," such as the right of return. The poll does suggest, however, that in terms of territory, a majority of Palestinians would accept a settlement based on 1967 borders.
In response to a presentation of more limited Israeli concessions with Israel committing to, "withdraw its forces to where they were before the start of the current Intifada, refrain from all violence against Palestinian civilians, and enter into negotiations on a peace agreement," only 36 percent of Palestinians polled favored "committing to stop violence against Israeli civilians."

Support for Non-Violent Demonstrations Against Curfews

Palestinians showed tremendous interest and support for the recent non-violent demonstrations and mass violations of the Israeli-imposed curfews. In sharp contrast to the Israeli public, an overwhelming majority of Palestinians (80 percent) said they followed the news about these actions very (47 percent) or somewhat (33 percent) closely. Only 18 percent said they followed it not very closely (12 percent) or not at all closely (six percent).
Forty percent of respondents said there have been such demonstrations in their own towns. Of these, 54 percent said they had participated. Overall, slightly more than 50 percent said they would be willing to participate in such actions, while another third would support others doing so. A slight majority regarded such demonstrations as at least as effective as violence and if conducted on a large scale, this figure grows to 70 percent.
An overwhelming 91 percent of those polled said they regarded the Palestinians killed by IDF forces in the recent demonstrations as martyrs. Of these, 51 percent considered them to be martyrs equal to (42 percent) or more important (9 percent) than a suicide bomber. Thirty-two percent regard them differently, while 16 percent did not answer.
Just over 50 percent said they regarded the recent non-violent demonstrations as equally effective (32 percent) or more effective (19 percent) than "violence...as a means of resisting the occupation." However, 42 percent regarded them as less effective. Those who said they were less effective were then asked to, "imagine that the numbers of Palestinians participating in such large-scale non-violent demonstrations in violation of the curfew expanded until large numbers in every Palestinian town were resisting in this way at once." Of those asked this further question, half changed their position and said the demonstrations would be effective.

Support for Large-Scale Defiance of Curfews

When asked whether, "large numbers of Palestinians should regularly refuse to abide by the curfew and go about their lives," 58 percent said they should. Thirty-five percent felt such large-scale defiance of curfews would be "too dangerous." Asked if there was "an effort to organize large-scale refusals to abide by the curfew in your town," 45 percent of those polled said they would participate, including 32 percent who would "participate and encourage others to participate." A further 31 percent would "support others doing it" but would not participate. Just 14 percent said they would not support it.

Attitudes About Violent and Non-violent Methods

In late summer 2002, some Fateh leaders made a public call for non-violent rather than violent forms of resistance and requested that Hamas halt suicide attacks on Israeli civilians, a development much discussed in the media at the time. Consistent with their refusal to renounce violence as long as they do not believe the Israelis are ready to make concessions in negotiations, 57 percent said they opposed the Fateh leaders' call, and were divided about whether it was even significant.
Asked if, "in the future, would you like to see the Intifada put more emphasis on violent or non-violent methods of resistance?" 44 percent said both, while 25 percent opted for more emphasis on violent methods and 19 percent for non-violent ones.
Non-violent methods were strongly endorsed and scored higher than suicide bombings. "Mass protest demonstrations" got a mean score of 8.1 and "mass defiance of curfews" (a method not previously asked about) received a mean score of 7.5.
A majority of Palestinians continued to say they believe that violence against Israelis makes the Israelis more ready to compromise, but that Israeli violence has the opposite effect on Palestinians.
78 percent said in a separate question that when Israelis use armed force that harms Palestinian civilians, this "leads to an increase...in Palestinian violence against Israelis."

Israeli Findings

Israeli Jewish respondents were first asked, "If the Palestinians committed to stop using violence against Israel and stopped all violence for an extended period, would you favor or oppose Israel allowing the establishment of a Palestinian state outside the 1967 borders, except for some agreed-upon land swaps?" A slight majority said they would favor allowing such a state while 42 percent were opposed.
Those who opposed this idea were then asked if they were opposed because they did not believe that the Palestinians would ever truly forgo the use of violence, or because they thought Israel must continue holding on to the Palestinian territories?
Fifty-one percent of this group said they did not believe the Palestinians would ever truly forgo the use of violence. Perhaps most significant, only 45 percent of this group said they felt that Israel must continue to hold on to the territories. Thus it appears that 71 percent of the total sample would agree to the establishment of a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders if they were confident the Palestinians would forgo the use of violence.
Consistent with this widespread lack of confidence in the Palestinians, when Israelis were asked, "What percentage of the Palestinian people do you think support the idea of using only non-violent methods in the Intifada?" the mean estimate was just 29 percent.

Israelis Unaware of Non-Violent Developments, but Support IDF Restraint

Israelis have surprisingly little awareness of recent non-violent demonstrations in violation of the curfew, and a majority tended to interpret these negatively as a challenge to Israeli authority, rather than as the emergence of a non-violent movement. Though many Israelis appeared to doubt that a genuine non-violent movement will emerge, a majority supported the idea of Israel showing restraint towards non-violent demonstrations as a way of encouraging such a trend.
Only one in 10 Israelis is aware of recent non-violent mass demonstrations in the Palestinian territories. Asked, "How much have you seen, heard or read about the large-scale demonstrations in a number of Palestinian cities that have been non-violent but in violation of the curfew?" only two percent said they had heard "a lot," seven percent had heard "some," 28 percent "not very much" and a striking 62 percent "nothing at all."
Forty-five percent tended to interpret the non-violent demonstrations negatively, "because they show continuing resistance to Israeli authority," rather than as the emergence of a non-violent movement. About a third saw the demonstrations as "a positive development, because they show a movement away from violent forms of protest." Fourteen percent did not answer and the remaining five percent saw them as both positive and negative.
Consistent with this lack of awareness, when respondents were told that, "some Fateh leaders have recently been calling for non-violent rather than violent forms of resistance and have requested that Hamas halt suicide attacks on Israeli civilians," only 39 percent saw this as an important development ("very" - 12 percent, "somewhat" - 26 percent). The remainder saw it as not very (24 percent) or not at all (36 percent) important.
Israelis strongly doubted a "significant Palestinian movement committed to non-violent action only will emerge." An overwhelming 84 percent said such a development is unlikely.
On a positive note, Israelis strongly supported the idea of taking a measured approach in reaction to non-violent demonstrations. About two-thirds thought the IDF should "show restraint" in dealing with non-violent demonstrations "to encourage a shift toward non-violent forms of protest." Only 28 percent felt the IDF should "crack down on the demonstrations because they are a challenge to IDF authority."
This support for leniency may be influenced by the impact that a non-violent movement would have in the eyes of the world. More than 70 percent said, "if the Palestinians increasingly emphasized non-violent forms of protest and significantly reduced the amount of violence ... this would lead the international community to put more pressure on Israel to make compromises.

Erosion of Confidence in IDF Crackdown

A majority of Israeli Jews supported the IDF's crackdown in response to Palestinian terrorism. Nearly two-thirds of respondents felt the IDF has almost always acted appropriately in its operations in the West Bank and Gaza. Just over 50 percent were also willing to state unconditionally that the "IDF imposing curfews on Palestinian towns over the past few months has been a good practice."
However, Israeli Jews' confidence that the IDF will achieve its goal appears to be eroding gradually. Asked, "How likely do you think it is that these military actions will achieve their goal of controlling Palestinian terrorism?" - with 0 being very unlikely and 10 being very likely - the mean score was 5.7. In August 2002, the mean score for the same question was 6.2.
Most significantly, a large majority of Israelis said they believe that the crackdown is increasing rather than decreasing Palestinian violence against Israelis. Sixty-four percent agreed that "when Israelis use armed force that harms Palestinian civilians, this leads to an increase" in Palestinian violence; 25 percent said this made no difference, while only six percent said this leads to a decrease. Asked about the imposition of curfews, without mention of any related violence against Palestinians, 44 percent thought this action had increased support for suicide bombing. Only 17 percent believed it had reduced support for suicide bombing, while 34 percent said it "had no real effect."

Conclusion

The findings and comparison of these surveys, both with each other and with those carried out three months earlier, indicate that trust between the two groups is diminishing rapidly. Although both sides recognize that non-violence could be a solution, there is little confidence they could rely on the promises of the other. A significant upswing in non-violent methods of protest could still change these attitudes among Israelis, demonstrating that the Palestinians are both willing and able to renounce violence while maintaining their resistance to occupation. This would be a significant step toward rebuilding trust between the sides and diminishing the current levels of violence experienced on both sides.

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