07/13/2010, 00.00
PALESTINE – ISRAEL
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Survey shows Palestinians increasingly frustrated with US and Israel, backing Hamas

More and more Palestinians do not trust Israel, seen as opponent to peace. Many believe Obama is backing away from the two-state solution. Support for Hamas rises 18 per cent in three months in West Bank, but in its Gaza stronghold, support for Islamist movement remains low.
Beit Sahour (AsiaNews) – More than 50 per cent of Palestinians believe that Israel has no interest in peace with them. Almost 50 per cent thinks US-sponsored indirect talks will fail. About 80 per cent of Palestinians view Washington and Barack Obama as closely aligned with Israeli policies, and more than 30 per cent support Hamas, up by 18 per cent in just a few months. This is the picture that emerges from the latest survey conducted between 17 June and 2 July among a random sample of about a thousand respondents in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza.

The period in which the survey was conducted was full of reports about the consequences of the Israeli attack against a flotilla of activists trying to break the blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip, but also stories about Obama’s promises and Netanyahu’s pledges regarding upcoming direct talks and a “freeze” Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

In reality, the Israeli press reported that settlements continued their expansion. Only yesterday, the Municipality of Jerusalem authorised the construction of 32 new flats in Pisgat Ze’ev area.

A few days ago, B’Tsalem, an Israeli human rights association, said that Israeli settlements in the West Bank cover 1 per cent, but legally incorporate 42 per cent of the territory, making the notion of a future Palestinian state a moot possibility.

This explains why 52.5 per cent of Palestinian respondents believe indirect Israeli-Palestinian talks are doomed to failure. A slightly higher proportion (53.3 per cent) believes that Israel is not concerned about making peace with the Palestinians.

If trust in Israel is down, trust in Hamas leaders is up 18.7 per cent since the previous survey (in April). According to Nabil Kukali, director general of the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion, greater trust in Hamas is the result of popular solidarity against the Israeli assault on the humanitarian aid flotilla for Gaza as well as to the opening of the border crossings between Gaza Strip and Egypt by the Egyptian government, and last, but not least, to the blockade easing measures announced, and partly applied by Israel.

Surprisingly, the Islamist movement gained support in the West Bank, where it reached 41.3 per cent, but not in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, where it was stable around 19.8 per cent.

Conversely, support for Fatah remained stable in both the West Bank (48.2 per cent) and Gaza (42.1 per cent), with an average of 46 per cent in the combined territories. In Gaza, Fatah was twice as popular as Hamas.

Increasingly, Palestinians are growing frustrated with the United States and its policy towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In June, US President Barack Obama put all his weight behind a settlement freeze in order to get peace process between the two sides going.

Now, 76.5 per cent of Palestinians believe that Obama is not behind a two-state solution; a similar proportion (73.6 per cent) thinks that the United States strongly backs Israel. An additional 19.5 believes it somewhat supports Israel. Only 2.6 per cent thinks the United States does not support Israel.

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