94% of Palestinians Reject Trump's Plan; Support for Armed Struggle on Rise, Poll Says

'I don’t think we’ve ever seen such a level of consensus among the Palestinian public,' says polling center head of survey undercutting Trump administration claims that only Palestinian leadership opposes plan

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Palestinians take part in a protest against President Donald Trump's Mideast initiative in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Feb. 11, 2020.
Palestinians take part in a protest against President Donald Trump's Mideast initiative in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Feb. 11, 2020.Credit: Majdi Mohammed,AP

Ninety-four percent of Palestinians reject President Donald Trump’s Mideast initiative according to a poll released Tuesday, which also found plummeting support for a two-state solution with Israel and nearly two-thirds backing armed struggle.

The Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research was published the poll as thousands of Palestinians rallied in the West Bank and Gaza to reject the Trump plan and express support for President Mahmoud Abbas in his efforts to gain backing at the UN Security Council for a resolution opposing it.

The survey, the first of Palestinian public opinion to be released since Trump’s plan was announced, undercuts the administration’s claims that opposition to the plan is largely confined to the Palestinian leadership, and raises concerns that the implementation of the proposal, which heavily favors Israel, could ignite a new round of violence.

Trump’s Mideast plan, announced at the White House on January 28, sides with Israel on virtually all of the most contentious issues of the decades-old conflict. It would allow Israel to annex large parts of the West Bank, including Jewish settlements that are home to hundreds of thousands of people and are considered illegal by most of the international community.

The plan would give the Palestinians limited self-rule in several enclaves connected by roads, bridges and tunnels, but only if they meet a long list of stringent conditions.

The Palestinian leadership, which cut off ties with the United States after Trump recognized disputed Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in 2017, have adamantly rejected the plan.

The opinion survey found that an overwhelming majority of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza also oppose it.

“I don’t think we’ve ever seen such a level of consensus among the Palestinian public,” said Khalil Shikaki, the head of the polling center.

Shikaki said support for the idea of a two-state solution with Israel has dropped to the lowest level since the center began carrying out surveys nearly three decades ago, with 39 percent in favor and 59 percent opposed. Support for a one-state solution – long rejected by both Israeli and Palestinian leaders – jumped from 28 percent in December to 37 percent today.

Palestinians clash with Israeli forces during a protest against President Donald Trump's Mideast initiative in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Feb. 11, 2020.Credit: Majdi Mohammed,AP

The poll found that 64 percent of Palestinians favor a return to armed struggle in response to the plan. Shikaki said the last time support was this high was during the worst days of the second intifada, or Palestinian uprising, that convulsed the region from 2000 to 2005.

“In all the questions in which violence is mentioned we see an increase, a significant increase,” he said.

Abbas has long been opposed to violence, but has threatened to cut off security coordination with Israel in response to the Trump plan, an approach that would enjoy wide support among Palestinians but one they doubt he will follow through on.

“The public is happy with the policy but it is not happy with the actual behavior of the president,” Shikaki said. “The public does not expect the president to go through and implement his own policy.”

The survey had a margin of error of 3 percent.

Abbas’ popularity has plummeted in recent years as he has failed to bring about an independent state or mend the internal rift with the Islamic militant group Hamas, which seized Gaza from his forces in 2007. His Palestinian Authority also faces widespread allegations of corruption.

But on Tuesday thousands of Palestinians packed into Manara Square in the West Bank city of Ramallah to vent their anger at the Trump plan and express support for Abbas. A similar rally in support of Abbas was held in Hamas-ruled Gaza.

“Trump is part of the problem not the solution,” an English-language banner read. “Trump’s plan = apartheid,” read another.

“All Palestinian people and all the factions, national and Islamic, are standing behind President Mahmoud Abbas,” Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh told the crowd in Ramallah. “All the streets are full,” he said. “This is the Palestinian response.”

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a Security Council meeting at United Nations headquarters, Feb. 11, 2020.Credit: Seth Wenig,AP

As the rally dispersed, dozens of Palestinians clashed with Israeli forces near a settlement just outside Ramallah. The protesters burned tires and hurled stones at Israeli troops, who responded with tear gas.

The Palestinian Red Crescent said two people were lightly wounded by small-caliber gunfire in the clashes and several others were struck by rubber bullets.

Abbas has tried to rally international support against the Trump plan, with limited success.

The UN Security Council had been expected to vote on a resolution opposing the plan Tuesday, but diplomats said the vote was delayed after several members, including European countries, objected to the language of the draft. Palestinian officials denied the resolution had been pulled, saying discussions were still underway.

In an address to the Security Council, Abbas reiterated his rejection of the plan, dismissing its map of a future Palestinian state as “Swiss cheese.”

The Palestinians want to establish a state in east Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, territories Israel seized in the 1967 war.

The European Union issued a statement last week reiterating its support for a two-state solution based on the 1967 lines. EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the U.S. initiative “departs from these internationally agreed parameters.”

The Arab League unanimously sided with the Palestinians against the plan, but key U.S. allies Egypt and Saudi Arabia said they appreciated Trump’s efforts and called for renewed negotiations.

The original draft resolution, co-sponsored by Tunisia and Indonesia and backed by the Palestinians, said the U.S. plan violates international law and Security Council demands for a two-state solution based on the 1967 lines.

Any resolution is virtually guaranteed to be vetoed by the United States, but the Palestinians had hoped that a strong show of support from other members of the council would help shore up international backing for their demands.

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