With the breakdown of the Middle East peace process during the past few months, Palestinian support for armed attacks against Israelis has nearly doubled, according to a survey released Wednesday.
Although many Palestinians still say that violence should be avoided, and although 79 percent say they support continuing the peace negotiations with Israel, fully 40 percent of the respondents in the West Bank and Gaza Strip said they believed armed attacks were a legitimate tactic - up from 22 percent in March.
“This is the first time the number has gone up in years,” said Khalil Shikaki, the political science professor who conducted the poll for the Center for Palestine Research and Studies in Nablus. “The truth is that many Palestinians now believe violence has a role, especially in the absence of progress in the peace talks.”
In the survey, which was conducted at the end of December among 1,307 Palestinians, 49 percent of respondents said they opposed armed attacks and 11 percent had no opinion. Support for armed attacks, which was at 57 percent in 1994, had been dropping steadily for three years before climbing back up to 40 percent in this poll.
Shikaki said he believed the number had begun to climb again because of the deadlock in the peace process, and because of Palestinian misgivings about the intentions of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He also said the armed confrontations between Palestinian police and Israeli soldiers last September had been viewed favorably by many Palestinians, who now believe that armed attacks and peace negotiations can be pursued at the same time.
Wednesday’s poll results came even as the news from the talks grew more pessimistic. Palestinian and Israeli negotiators, who have been trying to reach a deal on a military redeployment in the West Bank city of Hebron for three months, said Wednesday that they were no longer close to reaching a deal. Sources on the Palestinian side described talks as “extremely tense” and said that gaps were “very wide.”
The current disputes center on security at Hebron’s Tomb of the Patriarchs, a site holy to both Jews and Muslims, and on what kind of promises Netanyahu will make about further troop redeployment.
Also Wednesday, there was further bad news concerning Israel’s relations with other Arab countries. The Israeli newspaper Maariv noted new tensions in the relationship between Netanyahu and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
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