One can easily identify with the Israeli intelligence officer who will make the assessment that most Palestinians support fighting Israel until it is destroyed. Two Palestinian public opinion polls published in the beginning of the week provide the proof.
According to a Jerusalem Media and Communication Centre (JMCC) poll, 63.6 percent of 1,200 participants in Gaza and the West Bank either strongly or partially oppose ceasing all types of "militant activity" inside Israel. Over 65 percent believe that militant action against Israeli targets represents "an appropriate response within the current political situation," while 39.5 percent see no difference between "militant activity" in the occupied territories and inside Israel.
A poll of 1,197 participants conducted by the Bir Zeit University's Development Studies Program found that 54 percent cast doubt on the possibility of Israeli-Palestinian coexistence in the framework of a peace agreement. Thirty eight percent believe that peaceful coexistence is possible, 52 percent oppose returning to negotiations, and 45 percent favor the move.
The JMCC poll also found that 45.5 percent believe that the final aim of the intifada is to "free all Palestinian land" (including Israel). Over 42 percent believe the goal is to end Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip and set up a Palestinian state, while 61 percent support continuing the "armed struggle" following an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, according to the Bir Zeit poll.
It seems as though intelligence reports utilize such data to support the Israeli settlement policy and present it as a mere "reaction" to the Palestinians' lethal ambitions. But there are other ways of interpreting these figures.
The two polls were carried out in the first week of June, when the numerous deaths and massive damage caused by the Israel Defense Forces' operation in Rafah had left their impression on the entire Palestinian public. According to Red Crescent data, 128 Palestinians were killed during the month before the polls, while 188 sustained injuries from live fire. At the same time, demolitions of houses along the planned route of the separation fence continued.
It's no wonder that 61 percent of the participants in the Bir Zeit poll reported feeling insecure regarding the fate of their home and property. This deep insecurity has to do with what Palestinians feel is an Israeli policy that is viewed as independent of any militant Palestinian action. The veracity of this stance can be disputed, yet it's useful to understand its meaning: The Palestinians don't identify themselves as initiators, but only as those who "respond in an appropriate manner." And as long as Israel - the occupier - does not change its policy, they do not change their support for a proper response.
The JMCC poll showed that 40.3 percent of Palestinians believe that the separation fence will not affect "militant activities," compared with 36.4 percent who think it will decrease the number, while 15.5 percent believe it will bring about an increase. This brings to 55.8 percent those who completely ignore the fact that Hamas hasn't been able to live up to its promise to avenge the deaths of former leaders Ahmed Yassin and Abdel-Aziz Rantissi - both assassinated by Israel - due to the separation fence and Israel's intelligence and military superiority.
The strong support for "militant activity," disregarding the facts on the ground, represents a type of emotional, primal, automatic reaction. This piece of data reveals a political weakness camouflaged by hopeless "military" dreams. It also continues to provide ammunition for Israeli intelligence in its presentation of Israel-the-occupier as the threatened victim.
Any "non-intelligence" dialogue among equals reveals an opposite conclusion: Should Israel prove that it intends to put an end to the policy of active occupation, the "militant activity" would lose its attractiveness. The participants in the Bir Zeit poll still trust the "Israeli peace camp." Nearly 52 percent believe that demonstrations in Israel are important, and 22.8 percent think that the protests matter "to a certain degree." This can be read as an optimistic piece of data, pointing to a belief in the ability of peace-seeking Israelis to influence the situation. It can also be looked upon as yet another proof of an unrealistic understanding of reality.
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