The Peace Process, Public Perception of PNA Performance, Corruption, Status of Palestinian Democracy and Elections for the PNA President and Political Affiliation
7-9 January 1999
1. Peace Process
- Support for the peace process drops from 75% to 66% in two months
- Support for armed attacks against Israelis rises from 41% to 53%. Yet, in the light of the suspension of the Wye agreement, a majority of 60% still supports the continuation of political-diplomatic strategy while only a small minority of 14% supports return to Armed Struggle and 16% support return to Intifada
- Support for a unilateral declaration of statehood on May 4, 1999, rises from 46% to 57%
- A majority of 54% opposes the decision of the Palestinian National Council Conference to affirm amendment of the Charter while 37% support it
- 46% support suspension of implementation of Palestinian commitments in the Oslo and Wye agreements in response to Israels decision to suspend implementation of its commitments. But 44% support continuation of Palestinian implementation despite the Israeli decision
- A majority of 70% sees no difference between the three Israeli candidates: Netanyahu, Barak, and Shahak
- Only 38% see the ýClinton visit to Gaza as a signal of American recognition of the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, while 56% disagree with this view
The results of this survey show anger and frustration in the Palestinian street as a result of the Israeli decision to suspend the implementation of the Wye agreement. Support for the peace process has dropped to the pre Wye level (66%) after it had risen to 75% immediately after the signing of that agreement. Support for armed attacks against Israelis has increased significantly to 53%, a level higher than those recorded just before the signing of the agreement. Immediately after the Wye, support for violence dropped to 41%. The current level of support for violence is the highest since November 1994 when it stood at 57%.
The increase in the support for armed attacks does not mean that a majority of Palestinians is giving up on the political-diplomatic option. Sixty percent of all Palestinians support this choice, while only 14% support a return to Armed Struggle, and 16% support a return to Intifada. In other words, Palestinian public opinion supports the political approach and opposes the military one as matter of strategic choice; but, at the same time, it supports armed attacks as a tactic, as means of responding to Israeli intransigence and violation of peace agreements.
Support for the political-diplomatic approach is higher in the Gaza Strip (66%) compared to the West Bank (56%), among women (66%) compared to men (55%), those with elementary education (66%) compared to holders of BA degrees (52%), and among supporters of Fateh (73%) compared to supporters of the PFLP (43%) and Hamas (45%).
Support for armed attacks is equally spread in the West Bank and Gaza, among residents of cities, villages, towns and refugee camps, among men and women, and across all age groups and educational levels. This means that contrary to previous findings, violence finds broad popular support reflecting the depth of anger in the street in response to what the Palestinians perceives as Israeli failure to honor peace commitments. Despite this, a gap in the level of support for violence still exists between supporters of the peace process such as those affiliated with Fateh (47%) and those who oppose it such as those affiliated with Hamas (76%) and the PFLP (70%).
The popular anger is also reflected in the demand of 46% of the respondents for the suspension of implementation of Palestinian commitments under the Oslo and Wye agreements as the most appropriate response to the Israels suspension of the implementation of its commitments under the Wye agreement. It is also reflected the decline of support for the amendment of the Palestinian charter. In June 1996, about 48% supported the decision of the Palestine National Council to amend the charter while only 32% opposed it. Today, support for the decision of the Palestinian National Council Conference, taken on December 14, 1998 in Gaza, to affirm the earlier amendment and Arafats letter in this regard, did not exceed 37% while a majority of 54% opposed it. The decrease in the level of support for the amendment reflects a move in the Palestinian street toward uncompromising positions in Palestinian-Israeli negotiations in response to the policies of the Israeli right wing government.
Opposition to the amendment of the charter increases among men (59%) compared to women (49%), the young (58%) compared to the old (45%), holders of BA degree (65%) compared to illiterates (37%), students (68%) compared to housewives (46%) and farmers (45%), and among supporters of PFLP (75%) and Hamas (71%) compared to Fateh (44%).
One can also see the toughening of Palestinian positions in the large increase in support for the unilateral declaration of statehood on May 4, 1999 from 46% two months ago to 57% today. Support for postponement of the declaration until a Palestinian-Israeli agreement is reached dropped in the same period form 47% to 36%. Support for the unilateral declaration increases especially among men (62%) compared to women (52%). Not surprisingly however, support for the declaration is not spread along political affiliation lines as 60% of Fateh sympathizers and 57% of Hamas support it. Among PFLP sympathizers, however, support for the declaration reaches 79%. This finding indicates that the statehood issue is one in which national consensus is attainable.
Palestinian public opinion was not highly impressed by the Clinton visit to Gaza. A majority of 56% expressed the view that the visit did not signal an American shift toward recognition of the right of the Palestinians to self-determination while 38% believed that it did.
Furthermore, Palestinians are not looking forward to the results of the Israeli elections. A large majority of 70% sees no difference between the three Israeli candidates: Netanyahu, Barak and Shahak. Despite this some 17% still prefer a Barak-Labor government, while 4% prefer a Shahak-Center government, and 2% prefer a Netanyahu-Likud government. It is worth recalling that in March 1996, during the last Israeli election campaign, 40% of the Palestinians believed that a Labor-led government would be better for the Palestinians than a Likud-led government. At that time, only 43% saw no difference between Labor and Likud.
2. Public Perception of PNA Performance
- Positive evaluation of the performance of the PLC rises to 49%, cabinet to 49%, judicial system to 48%, security and police services to 56%, presidency to 56%, and opposition to 38%
- But positive evaluation of PNA performance regarding the latest Iraq-US confrontation does not exceed 39%
The results show a general increase in the positive evaluation of the performance of the Palestinian Authority. Positive evaluation of the performance of the PLC has increased from 39% two months ago to 49% today. The positive evaluation of the cabinet performance increased during the same period from 41% to 49%; the judicial system from 45% to 48%; security and police services from 51% to 56%; presidency from 55% to 56%; and opposition factions from 33% to37%. Generally, positive evaluation is higher in the Gaza Strip than in the West Bank.
No significant changes have taken place in the performance of the Palestinian Authority during the past two months to justify the positive shift in public perception. It is more likely that the shift reflects internal solidarity and the strengthening of national motivation in face of Israeli intransigence and perceived Israeli increased hostility to the peace process in the aftermath of the suspension of the Wye agreement. The attention of the Palestinian street may have been diverted to the national political agenda away from the domestic one; thus it is showing more tolerance toward the failings of the PA.
The relatively positive evaluation of the performance of the government is not extended by the public to the PA performance pertaining to the latest Iraq-US confrontation. Only 39% of the respondents evaluated that performance positively. It is worth recalling that a much larger percentage of 62% evaluated positively the performance of the Palestinian government with regard to the March 1998 Iraqi-US crises.
- Percentage of those who believe that corruption exits in PNA institutions increase to 68%
- Percentage of those who believe that corruption will increase or remain the same in the future increases to 65%
- Corruption exists in governmental offices and ministries according to 76% of the people, in security services according to 75%, in the PLC according to 43%, and in office of the presidency according to 43%
The results confirm the persistent alarming trend in the belief that corruption exists in PA institutions. The current level of 68% is the highest since September 1996 when the question was first asked. Two months ago it stood at 66% compared to 49% in September 1996. Moreover, the percentage of those who believe that corruption will increase or remain the same in the future increased to 65%, its highest level since September 1996 when it stood at 50%.
It is worth noting that the percentage of those believing that PA corruption exists is higher in the Gaza Strip despite that fact that Gazans give higher positive evaluation to PA performance. This finding may point out to the existence of separation in the public perception, especially in the Gaza Strip, between PA performance on the one hand, and the existence of corruption in the PA on the other. The street may not necessarily be blaming all corruption on the PA. It is also possible that stronger national solidarity and heightened threat perception, in the wake of current Israeli policy, is causing people to evaluate general PA performance more positively but causing the opposite with regard to corruption. The separation between performance and corruption is sharpest when it comes to security forces. While 75% of the people believe that corruption exists in police and security services, 56% give positive evaluation to their performance. Similarly, 76% believe that corruption exists in PA ministries; 49% believe that it exists in the PLC; and 43% believe that it exists in the president office.
4. The Status of Palestinian Democracy
- Positive evaluation for Palestinian democracy does not exceed 32% compared to 75% for Israeli democracy, 67% for American democracy, 30% for Jordanian democracy, and 26% for Egyptian democracy
- A majority of 53% believe that people can not criticize the Palestinian Authority without fear
Positive evaluation of Palestinian democracy stands today at 32%, while 53% believe that people can not criticize the PA without fear. These results show an improvement in public perception compared to the situation two months ago when Palestinian democracy received a positive evaluation of 27%. But it represents a continuation of a negative trend recorded since April 1997 when the evaluation stood at 50%. In comparison, positive evaluation of Israeli and American democracies increased to 75% and 67% respectively, while remaining almost unchanged with regard to Jordans (30%) and Egypts (26%).
The increase in the positive evaluation of the Israeli and American democracies might be understandable in light of recent developments in these two countries. The fall of government through parliamentary vote in Israel and role of Congress in the process of the impeachment of the American president create perception of dynamic democracies. But the relative increase in positive evaluation of Palestinian democracy can not be attributed to similar developments. It might instead be a reflection of a need for internal national solidarity in the face of Israeli recent policies as mentioned above.
5. Elections for the PNA President and Vice-president, and Political Affiliation
- For the presidency: Yassir Arafat receives 47% of the votes, Ahmad Yasin 12%, and Haidar Abdul Shafi 10%
- In a competition for the vice-presidency among eight candidates: Haidar Abdul Shafi receives 17%, Faisal Hussieni and Saeb Erikat 8% each, Mahmoud Abbas 7%, Ahmad Qurie, Farouq Qaddoumi, and Hanan Ashrawi 6% each, and Nabil Shaath 3%
- In a competition for the vice-presidency among four candidates only: Haidar Abdul Shafi receives 38%, Saeb Erikat 21%, Faisal Hussieni 18%, and Hanan Ashrawi 13%
- Fateh receives the support of 40% of the Palestinians, Hamas 11% (rising to 16% in Gaza), PFLP 5%, and the non-affiliated reach 37%
The results reflect a slight increase in the popularity of Yassir Arafat from 45% two months ago to 47% today. Arafats popularity is higher in the Gaza Strip (53%) compared to the West Bank (43%). This difference has been noticed in previous polls and may be attributed to the appreciation Gazans have for Arafat for making the Gaza Strip a headquarter for the PA. Other candidates received slightly more votes than the last poll conducted two months ago. Ahmad yasin received 12% and Haidar Abdul Shafi received 10%.
In a competition for the office of vice-president between eight candidates, Haidar Abdul Shafi received the largest number of votes (17%). Two months ago, Abdul Shafi received 10% only. The increase is probably attributed to a technical change. In previous polls, the question about a vote for the vice-president came after a question about a vote fore the president. Since Abdul Shafi was a candidate for the two offices, some of those who voted for him as a president did not vote for him as a vice-president. In this poll, the question about a vote for the vice president came before the question about a vote for the president. The popularity of the other candidates in the list of eight remained basically unchanged with Saeb Erikat and Faisal Hussieni receiving 8% each, Mahmoud Abbas 7%, Ahmad Qurei , Farouq Qaddoumi, and Hanan Ahsrawi 6% each, and Nabil Shaath 3%.
In a competition for the office of the vice-president between four candidates, Haidar Abdul Shafi received the largest number of votes (38%) followed by Saeb Erikat (21%), Faisal Hussieni (18%), and Hanan Ashrawi (13%). These names in the list of four were the only names given to the respondents when asked this question. The West Bank gave Abdul Shafi the largest number of votes (32%) as did the Gaza Strip (45%). Erikat received 26% of the West Bank vote and 16% of the Gaza vote, while Hussieni recived 20% of the West Bank vote and 17% of the Gaza vote.
Haidar Abdul Shafi received the largest number of votes even among supporters of Fateh (28%) followed by Erikat with 26% of Fatehs vote, Hussieni with 24%, and Ashrawi with 13%.
Fateh remained the largest faction with 40% of the vote, followed by Hamas with 11%. Hamas support in Gaza, however, increased significantly from 11% two months ago to 16% in this survey. The popularity of the PFLP rose from 3% to 5% during the same period. The non-affiliated remained stable at 37%...More