The Peace Process after Netanyahu's Election, Freedom of Expression, Democratization under the PNA, the Recent Arab Summit, the Performance of the Legislative Council
June 28-30, 1996
This is the Survey Research Unit's (SRU) twenty-third public opinion poll. It covers the topics of the peace process after Netanyahu's election as Israel's Prime Minister, the final status negotiations, freedom of expression and democratization under the Palestinian National Authority, the recent Arab Summit and the performance of the Palestinian Legislative Council.
The SRU has been conducting regular public opinion polls to document an important phase in the history of the Palestinian people and to record the reaction of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to current events. CPRS does not adopt political positions and does not tolerate attempts to influence the conclusions reached. CPRS is committed to providing a scholarly contribution to the study of Palestinian politics and publishing the results of all its studies. Poll results provide a vital resource for researchers needing statistical information and analysis. The polls also give members of the community an opportunity to voice their opinions and to seek to influence decision-makers on issues of concern to them. The following is an analysis of the results obtained in the twenty-third opinion poll conducted by the SRU.
Among the more important events in the two-month period preceding this poll, the Palestinian National Council (PNC) held its twenty-first session in Gaza on 4 April 1996. This session took place after the Israeli authorities allowed a select group of Palestinian leaders from outside the occupied territories to attend the meeting. Top of the agenda was the discussion and vote on the amendment of the Palestinian National Charter which contradicts the PLO's commitments in the Oslo agreements with Israel. The majority agreed that the Charter should be amended, with 504 in favor, 54 opposed and 14 abstained. Also, by the end of the session, a new executive committee of the PLO was elected.
A new Palestinian Government was formed by the Executive office. It was presented to the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) for a vote of confidence and to discuss its guideline. The new government received the vote of confidence from the PLC, after debate and criticism from the members.
Within this period, Likud party leader, Binyamin Netenyahu, was elected as Israel's Prime Minister, while the centrist, right-wing and religious parties maintained a majority of seats in the Knesset. The Israeli elections were accompanied by a continued closure of the West Bank and Gaza Strip from Israel and Jerusalem. The closure aggravated the already poor economic conditions for Palestinians. An Arab Summit was held in Cairo to discuss the outcome of the Israeli elections and confirm Arab countries' support of Palestinians as they enter the final status negotiations with Israel.
Palestinian police raided Al-Najah National University in Nablus, on 30 March, arresting students who were believed to belong to opposition groups. The PLC condemned the crackdown on educational institutions and called for upholding the freedom of expression on campuses and throughout Palestinian society.
Israel continued to maintain strict security measures throughout the occupied territories not under Palestinian Authority. Also, in violation of the Oslo agreements, Israel confiscated more Palestinian land to build by-pass roads and expand existing settlements. This resulted in confrontations between Palestinians and Israeli settlers in the areas of Qalqilia, Samon' and villages nearby Ramallah. Israel also imposed harsher restrictions on Palestinians in Jerusalem, including areas of political activity, building permits and residency status. Leading advocates of Palestinian rights maintain that these policies are intended to prejudice the negotiations on final status of Jerusalem.
The questionnaire used in this poll was designed by through consultation with CPRS researchers. Prior to the polling dates, the questionnaire was pre-tested on 50 respondents in the Nablus area. As in all of our polls, it includes a large number of demographic and attitudinal variables (see Table 1 for the demographic distribution of the sample). Interviews were conducted between 28-30 March 1996 (Thursday, Friday and Saturday). The total sample is 1,382 persons, with 865 from the West Bank and 518 from the Gaza Strip.
% of Total
% of Total
Place of Residence
*Note, as discussed more fully below, the sample size (counts and percentages) have been weighted in order to obtain unbiased estimates.
**Includes all post-secondary degrees.
***Specialists are defined as Professors/University Instructors, Engineers, Doctors, Lawyers, Pharmacists or Executives.
****Employees are defined as School Teachers, Government Employees, Nurses, Lower-level Company Employees.
The sample in this poll was obtained using a multi-stage sampling technique. There are four stages in the process of randomly selecting units of the population into the sample. These are the following:
- selecting population locations with probabilities proportional to size of the sample (PPS);
- selecting one or two random blocks from each location;
- selecting a house using systematic random sampling; and
- selecting a person 18-years or older from the household.
We used 75 population locations in this poll, from which 1,382 households were selected into the sample. In this poll, the gender distribution does not reflect expected population parameters and therefore had to be weighted to obtain unbiased estimates of the actual population. Specifically, we obtained an unequal distribution of men and women in the sample (i.e., 40% men and 60% women), which was corrected by reducing the base of the sample size to n=980.
At the first stage of the sampling procedure, CPRS fieldworkers and researchers create maps of the localities of population centers randomly selected into the sample. These maps indicate the boundaries, main streets and clusters of residential neighborhoods in these areas. They are further divided into a number of sampling units (blocks), with each unit comprising an average of 100 housing units.
Households are selected based on a systematic sampling procedure. For example, if the fieldworkers estimate the number of houses in the sampling unit to be 100 and were assigned 10 interviews, the fieldworkers divide 100 by 10, obtaining 10. Then the fieldworkers conduct the first interview in the 10th household, and the second in the 20th and so forth. Fieldworkers start their sample selection of housing units from a well defined point in the area such as a post office, mosque or busines. They are instructed to report on the direction of their sampling walks, and play an active role in drawing maps of each locality as well as estimating the number of houses in each block.
Our fieldworkers participated in a number of workshops and training sessions where we discuss the aims and methods of the poll. The topics we covered are household interviewing techniques, confidence building, mapping and sampling procedures. Four special training seminars were held prior to the poll which were attended by a total of 75 fieldworkers.
Fieldworkers are grouped into teams of two who are supervised by senior CPRS researchers. Senior researchers make random visits to interview locations to discuss the research process with the teams. More than fifty percent of our fieldworkers are female, so as to ensure the representation of women in the sample. Fieldworkers are assigned a limited number of interviews (an average of 17 per team) to allow for careful interviewing.
The non-response rate for this sample is around 3%. Some respondents, we believe, were reluctant to state their views out of fear or disinterest in the present political circumstances.
In previous polls, we estimated the margin of error to be approximately +3%. For this poll, however, we estimate the margin of error to be +5%.
The data were processed through SPSS, a computer program that is able to detect illogical answers and other inconsistencies.
The results of this poll show that the total unemployment rate in the West Bank and Gaza Strip is 37%, a 12-point decrease since March 1996 (Poll #22). As consistently found in previous polls, unemployment in the Gaza Strip (47%) is higher than in the West Bank (30%). The high rates can be mainly attributed to the continued closure of the West Bank and Gaza Strip from Israel since the February and March bombings. Note, these figures were collected within a three-day period (28-30 June 1996), from respondents 18-years or older, and based on a definition of unemployment used by the International Labour Organization (ILO).
Attitudes toward the future of the peace process, measured by several questions, mostly indicate a general high level of support for its continuation. This support is tempered by reservations particularly when it comes to the belief that the final status negotiations will result in an acceptable solution to both the Israelis and Palestinians. These findings, examined together, can be partly explained by the sense of improvement or disappointment in the national reconstruction and transition to democracy efforts on the domestic level. For supporters of the peace process, the majority tends to have trust in the new Palestinian government, the perception that freedom of expression is better under the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) and that the election of Netanyahu as Israel's new Prime Minister left no impact on the future of the peace process. As for the opposition, those who do not support the continuation of the peace process or identify with the "peace camp", their views tend to be pessimistic on both regional and domestic issues.
Future of the Peace Process
West Bank and Gaza Strip Palestinians are almost evenly divided regarding the future of the peace process between Palestinians and Israelis, after the Israeli elections and the formation of the new Likud-led government. 34.4% say that they are optimistic, 27.6% pessimistic while 33.3% think that the elections will not affect the peace process. Optimism is higher in the Gaza Strip (42.2%) than in the West Bank, where 29.6% expressed optimism and 31.4% pessimism. As for those who think that the elections will not change the peace process there is no significant difference between the West Bank and Gaza Strip. On this issue, and on several others, men tend to be more pessimistic than women (31.0% and 24.2%, respectively); the more educated tend to have more pessimistic attitudes than the less educated (see Table 2); and the younger members of the sample are more likely to believe that there is no change, but are more optimistic than older people. This is a change in attitude, however, from March 1996 (Poll #22), when 40% thought that an Israeli government led by the Labor Party would be better in regard to Palestinian goals. Only 4.9% thought that the Likud Party would be better and 43% expressed that there is no difference between the two Israeli parties.
On the final status negotiations, which will be greatly affected by the Israeli election results, a similar pattern emerges. Overall, public opinion is almost divided on the question of whether or not it is possible to reach an acceptable solution in the course of negotiations over Jerusalem, Refugees, Borders and Israeli Settlements. 44.3% think it is possible to reach a solution acceptable to both parties, but 47.5% do not. In the Gaza Strip, belief in a positive outcome (51.6%) is higher than in the West Bank (39.8%). Once again, men are more pessimistic than women on this question (52.0% and 43.6%, respectively); and those with higher education levels are more likely to think that the final status negotiations will not lead to an acceptable solution than less educated respondents in our sample (see Table 2).
A majority of the Palestinians polled (50.5%) believes that Palestinians cannot rely on Arab countries to support them in obtaining their rights, as discussed in the recent Arab Summit. 43.1% think that Arab countries will support Palestinian rights and only 6.4% had no opinion on the matter. As with the attitudes on the Israeli elections and the outcome of the final status negotiations, there are differences between the West Bank and Gaza Strip, men and women and the more and less educated (see Table 2). In all cases, the former tends to be more pessimistic than the latter.
Attitudes on Israeli Elections, Final Status Negotiations and Arab Summit by Selected Variables, weighted percentages and counts (n)
As suggested by the findings displayed in Table 2, Palestinians' future outlook can be described as a cautious blend of optimism and pessimism. These attitudes are inconsistent with support for the continuation of the peace process which is at its highest, with 81.1% supporting and 13% opposing. (In the March #22 Poll, CPRS found that 78% supported its continuation and 16% stopping it.) But again, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip (86.3%) are more likely than those in the West Bank (77.8%) to support the continuation of the peace process; and West Bankers are nearly three times (16.8%) more likely to advocate stopping the process than Gazans (5.6%). On this question, there is no significant difference between the attitudes of men and women, but the difference between education and age levels is pronounced (see Table 3).
Such high support for the continuation of the peace process is reflected in the high percentage of total respondents (69%) who ithemselves with a party or faction that supports the peace process. 66.9% of Palestinians in the West Bank and 72.5% in the Gaza Strip classify themselves within the "peace camp" (see Table 3 and further discussion based on Tables 11 & 12 below). On the recent decision by the Palestinian National Council to amend the National Charter, a condition by Israel to continue the peace process, a little less than the plurality (47.6%) was in favor and a sizable percentage (31.1%) was opposed (see Table 3). Note again the relationships between age and education levels: the older and the less educated the respondent the more likely s/he is to be in support of continuation of the peace process, identify with the "pro-peace camp" and favor the amendment of the Palestinian National Charter. In a similar question asked in Poll #20 (13-15 October 1995), pending the decision to amend the Charter, 50% supported and 39% opposed it.
Attitude on Continuation of the Peace Process, Identification with Support/Oppose Camp, Amendment of National Charter by Selected Variables, weighted percentages and counts (n)