Rejecting two states, supporting extreme views: Palestinian public opinion in 2011

Published: 29 July 2011
Briefing Number 293

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Summary:  According to a recent, authoritative survey of Palestinian public opinion by respected US pollster Stan Greenberg, the Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza hold a range of rejectionist views which are not compatible with a two-state solution with Israel.  This Briefing summarises those views.

Key messages: 

- The Palestinian attitudes highlighted in this Briefing are a fundamental obstacle to coexistence and a two-state solution with Israel.  
- Many Palestinians claim to want peace. But they show no appreciation for the changes of attitude and practical compromises on their part which would be needed to achieve it.  Most of their supporters outside the region display the same mindset     

- It is claimed by many expert commentators that ‘everyone knows what a final deal will look like’ between Israel and the Palestinians.  The information in this Briefing refutes that.  The Palestinians are far away from Israel on the basics.  

Who carried out the survey, and how? 

In July 2011, The Israel Project released the results of a survey of Palestinian public opinion.  The survey was conducted by American polling expert Stanley Greenberg in conjunction with Palestinian research partner the ‘Palestinian Center for Public Opinion’.  Greenberg leads the polling company Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research.

The survey involved face-to-face interviews with a random sample of 1010 Palestinian adults over 18 years of age: 656 from the West Bank and 353 from Gaza (The figures are from the published survey but they actually total 1009 – Beyond Images).  The survey was conducted between 22 June and 8 July 2011, and its margin for error is stated to be 3.1%.

Greenberg is a “respected” polling expert (in the words of the Guardian newspaper in the UK).  He has been commissioned by political leaders such as Nelson Mandela, Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Tony Blair and Ehud Barak to provide public opinion advice, as well as by organisations such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, and Microsoft.  Greenberg is also co-founder of Democracy Corps, which provides strategic advice to “progressive groups” in the USA on a range of issues.

The Greenberg survey was published on the website of The Israel Project at under the title ‘Arab Spring and Frozen Peace: Palestinian Opinion Summer 2011’.     

Topics covered in the survey

The survey analysed Palestinian opinion on many current questions including attitudes towards the so-called ‘Arab Spring’; the use of violence as a political tool; views regarding Hamas and Fatah, and their relative popularity; attitudes towards Arab language media and social media like Facebook; attitudes to healthcare and the economic situation in the territories; the future role sharia law; and gender discrimination. 

This Beyond Images Briefing just highlights the findings of the survey on a two-state solution, and attitudes towards Israel and peace.

  • 66% reject the idea of two states, for the Jewish and Palestinian people

  • 66% of Palestinians surveyed reject the idea most recently spelt out by  President Obama that a peace agreement would be based on two states coexisting side-by-side: in Obama’s words, “Palestine as the homeland of the Palestinian people and Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people”.  Furthermore, 63% of those polled think that the Palestinians’ leaders should reject this idea, too.       

Beyond Images comment:  The two-state solution is the foundation of international diplomacy towards peace.  This finding is a significant obstacle to that quest.

  • A ‘one-state’ solution is far more popular than a ‘two-state’ solution

74% of Palestinians polled believe that the real goal for the Palestinians should be “to start” with two states, but then “move to it all being one Palestinian state”.  22% hold this view ‘strongly’ and 52% hold this view.  (Note: this question was asked of half of the total sample questioned).

Beyond Images comment: In the 1970s, the Palestine Liberation Organisation openly promoted the idea of dismantling Israel ‘in stages’.  In the 1980s and 1990s it was thought (by some) that the Palestinians had abandoned this idea.  But this survey finding shows that the idea is still around, and commands popular support.  Again, it’s a finding completely at odds with a sustainable two-state solution.    

  • 3% believe Jerusalem should be shared with the Jews as a capital city

92% of Palestinians questioned believe that Jerusalem should be the capital of a future state of Palestine.  Only 3% thought it should be a shared capital – ie the capital of a future of Palestine and at the samse time the capital of Israel.

Beyond Images comment:  It is a disastrous finding that so few Palestinians respect that the Jewish people consider Jerusalem to be their capital. 

  • 72% support denying the Jewish historical connection to Jerusalem

72% of Palestinians questioned were in favour of denying that the Jews have “a long history in Jerusalem going back thousands of years”.  Only 19% of Palestinians thought that it was wrong to deny that history. (Half the sample were asked this question). 

Beyond Images comment:  This finding is the result of a poisoned political culture, and a narrative of fierce rejectionism that is deep-rooted not only among Hamas and its supporters, but among so-called ‘moderate’ Palestinian society.  See Beyond Images Briefing 275

  • 62% support naming streets after Palestinian suicide bombers

62% of Palestinians surveyed thought it was right to name streets in West Bank towns after Palestinian suicide bombers like Dalal Mughrabi, who directed the 1978 coastal road bus massacre of 37 Israelis.  (Mughrabi is named specifically in the survey question)

Beyond Images comment:  This finding is the product of a culture of relentless incitement against Israel, and glorification of martyrs.  It is completely irreconcilable with building peace. See Beyond Images Briefing 292.  

  • Large majorities supported extremist statements from the Hamas Charter

The Palestinians surveyed were asked for their attitude towards the following statement from the Hamas Charter, which is a verse from the Koran: “The Day of Judgment will not come about until the Muslims fight the Jews, when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him....” 73% ‘supported’ this statement.  Another statement from the Charter reads:  “For our struggle against the Jews is extremely wide-ranging and grave, so much so that it will need all the loyal efforts we can wield, to be followed by further steps and reinforced by successive battalions from the multifarious Arab and Islamic world, until the enemies are defeated and Allah’s victory prevails”.  80% supported this statement.       

Beyond Images comment:  On its face, it is disastrous that so many Palestinians support these extreme quotes. The most charitable explanation is that they felt obliged to say they do, as the first of them has holy status, as it comes from a text which is holy to them.  But whatever the reason for their support, it is a highly worrying finding, and, once again, a reflection of a political culture poisoned by incitement. 

  • Strong majorities are in favour of “diplomatic engagement” with Israel 

In the West Bank 41% more people favoured “diplomatic engagement” with Israel than favoured “violent resistance”.   In Gaza the majority in favour of “diplomatic engagement” over “violent resistance” was 27%.

Beyond Images comment:  On one level it is welcome that diplomacy is more popular than violence among Palestinians.  But the rest of the survey findings show that the Palestinians do not appreciate the sacrifices they will need to undertake.  And in the meanwhile, while they are tactically shunning violence, they still embrace the narrative of rejection and extremism which fuels violence.  So the preference for diplomacy over violence must be treated with caution. 

  • Extremely low importance is attached to peace compromises with Israel

The Palestinians surveyed were asked for their attitude towards steps which the Palestinians could take to make peace with Israel. Only 4% thought it would be very important for the Palestinians to recognise Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people.  Only 2% thought it would be very important to depict Israel on maps of the region in schoolbooks and official Palestinian documents (in which Israel is currently omitted). 

Beyond Images comment:  Taking such steps are minimum Israeli expectations for peace.  The fact that the Palestinians attach so little importance to them shows how detached they are from reality, and shows their deep-rooted refusal to understand any Israeli perspective.  

Some related Beyond Images Briefings:

Briefing 292 – 22 July 2011
Palestinian incitement against Israel, and its impact on peace prospects

Briefing 275 – 20 January 2011
Palestinian denial of Jewish history: an obstacle to peace and coexistence

Briefing 262 – 15 July 2010
‘The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is about territory.  The solution is ‘land for peace’.....’

Briefing 249 – 10 December 2009
The roots of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: the ongoing Arab denial of Israel’s legitimacy

Briefing 227 – 25 December 2008
‘Moderate Palestinian leaders believe in a two-state solution....’

Briefing 117 – 12 December 2004
The ‘two-state solution’: Palestinians deny Yasser Arafat accepted it