Settler Terrorism is the Biggest Threat to West Bank Residents

With the increase in settler attacks, the fears of Palestinian citizens in all areas of the West Bank of terrorist attacks and displacement increase, and in light of the beliefs in the Israeli army's collusion with the settlers, and the lack of confidence in the intentions and performance of the Palestinian security forces, the public places much greater confidence in the effectiveness of Palestinian armed groups and sees the formation of these groups in the targeted areas as an effective and realistic response to protect their areas from these attacks. 
28 September-12 October 202

The Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research conducted a special poll on Palestinian public opinion in the West Bank between  the period of September 28 and October 12, 2023. The period leading up to and during the conduct of the poll witnessed a few important developments directly related to the subject of the poll, including an increase in the number of terrorist attacks by settlers.  This year witnessed an unprecedented acceleration in events and settler violence, including killings, torture, burning homes, orchards and cars, and attacks on places of worship in an unprecedented manner, many of which came under the watchful eyes of the Israeli army and sometimes under its protection. This year is the worst since 2005, with more than 1,300 settler attacks on Palestinian residents and properties in the West Bank recorded during the first nine months of 2023, representing an increase of 40% compared to 2022. The attacks have continued during the current war in Gaza. The Nablus governorate was subjected to the most brutal settler attacks, especially in places like Huwara, Beita, Madama, Deir Sharaf, Burqa, Qusra, Asira al-Qibliya and other towns, followed by the governorate of Ramallah, especially in Sinjil, Turmus'ayya, um Safa and al-Mughayir, and the Hebron governorate, especially in the Old City area of H2 and in the south of the governorate.

The main objective of settler attacks in Area C is to force its residents to leave to ensure that these areas remain under their control to facilitate their annexation to Israel. This year witnessed the  displacement of hundreds in localities in the Ramallah, Hebron, and Jerusalem governorates. In the Ramallah area, the entire localities of Ein Samia and Qaboun were displaced. In the Hebron area, the localities of Khirbet Samri, Wadi al-Tahta, and others were displaced. In the Jerusalem area, the locality of Al-Baqa'a, was displaced. These localities were subjected to various attacks by settlers, in many cases under the protection of the Israeli army.

It should be noted that two samples were utilized in the conduct of this poll:

(1) A West Bank representative sample of adults interviewed face to face before the eruption of the current war in the Gaza Strip, except for 13 interviews conducted after that.

(2) An additional sample of adults, all but 20, were interviewed face to face between October 7 and 12, during the first six days of the Israel-Hamas war. These interviews were conducted in the areas most vulnerable to settlers’ attacks, particularly those that are outside the formal jurisdiction of the Palestinian police. Therefore, we expect the attitudes of the respondents in these areas to be influenced by the unfolding conditions after the war.

 Sample Selection Methodology


This poll on settlers’ threat and the insecurity it produces in the West Bank was conducted between September 28 and October 12, 2023, with a representative sample of 1,375 adults, taking into account the different types of localities, such as (A), (B) and an expanded (C) area. The expanded C area refers to those areas in the West Bank, including areas in East Jerusalem, that are not under the control of the Palestinian Authority in terms of law enforcement jurisdiction. Larger samples were added in specific areas, such as the isolated East Jerusalem areas, that are separated from the city of East Jerusalem by a concrete wall, the H2 area in Hebron, and selected areas in areas B and C near neighborhoods that were subjected to settler terrorist attacks or threats of displacement.

The sample has been selected based on the following distribution:

  • A representative sample of 795 adults, i.e. over 18 years old, was randomly selected according to the Center's methodology in selecting representative samples, with a margin of error rate of +/-3%.
  • An additional sample of 580 adults was distributed over areas of different specifications, as shown in the table below, to allow for reliable statistical analysis of areas with limited population size.

The selection of the additional sample; additional samples came from the following five areas:

  • An expanded sample in the C areas was randomly selected from a list of all such areas in the West Bank.  
  • The isolated areas of Jerusalem represented Shuafat refugee camp, Kafr Aqab, Semiramis, and Qalandia camp. A random sample was selected from these areas according to the center’s methodology in selecting samples.
  • H2 in Hebron: The sample was selected from this area according to the center’s methodology in selecting samples.
  • Areas that were attacked by settlers: All areas that were attacked by settlers during 2023 were counted and a sample of these areas was withdrawn.
  • Neighborhoods near areas that have been displaced: All areas whose residents were displaced during 2023 were counted and a sample was taken the adjacent areas.

Note on analysis of the results:

It is important to note that when analyzing the results below, we have used the representative sample after reweighting the data so that it would reflect the actual population distribution. However, when analyzing the additional areas, the full sample of each area was used, without the need for re-weighing, to increase the confidence in these results. When referring to the expanded C area, the analysis reflects attitudes from data from both the representative and the additional samples.







Main Results:

The results of this special survey on the threat posed to West Bank Palestinians by settlers indicate that the risk extends to all Palestinian areas and that it is not restricted to Areas C and B, but extends to Area A, and that there are some areas where this danger is overwhelming and is felt by most of the citizens.  The concerns of the Palestinian population include fear of attacks on their homes and property as well as the fear of displacement or forced relocation to safer areas.

Findings show that the Palestinian public shows little trust in the protection of the Israeli army, nor does it trust the protection of the Palestinian police. Instead, it sees the formation of armed groups, in areas experiencing these threats, as the most effective and realistic response to protect these communities from settler terrorism.  The findings also indicate that the Palestinian public does not show confidence in the feasibility of relying on the formation of unarmed groups, as this response is the least supported by the public.

The refusal to rely on the Israeli army is due to a widespread conviction that the army itself poses an additional threat to the citizens. The majority of residents of the areas subjected to settler attacks says that the army supports settlers in waging these attacks, while two-thirds of all West Bankers say that the army stands by and allows these attacks to unfold; only less  than a tenth of the population believes the army seeks to stop or prevent such attacks.

The findings show several reasons why the Palestinian public is reluctant to ask for protection from the Palestinian police, foremost among them is the belief that the Palestinian police does not see that it is its duty to protect the Palestinian citizens from settler attacks and that, as a result, it does not actually provide such protection even in the areas of its own jurisdiction. Half of the public believes that the performance of the Palestinian police in their area of residence has, in any case, worsened compared to the situation a year or two ago.  A very small percentage says that security conditions today are better than they were in the past four years, and a majority says they have worsened. In fact, a little more than half say that the Palestinian police does not protect them even from attacks by other Palestinians.

Finally, the findings in the special areas, where additional samples were utilized and interviews conducted after the eruption of the current Israel-Hamas war, show significantly higher threat perception than in similar areas interviewed before the war. The rising fear reflects growing concern that the settlers are taking advantage of two war developments, the shifting of attention to the Gaza Strip and the blockade and restrictions imposed by the Israeli army on the movement of the area residents. The residents fear that these developments create an environment in which the settlers can carry out terrorist attacks against the residents of the vulnerable areas with full impunity and, many believe, with the complicity of the Israeli army. 

 Setters are the greatest source of threat:


The settler threat is the main source of concern among Palestinians in the West Bank, not only in areas outside A but also in Area A.  A vast majority of 69% of all Palestinians say they fear future settler attacks. This percentage rises to 80% in Area C and similar areas, 73% in Area B, and drops to 61% in Area A. When looking at specific threatened areas, we find that the risk from settler terrorism escalates to 96% in those areas that have witnessed, or are still witnessing, such attacks, whether they are in Areas B and C.  It stands at 93% in the H2 area in Hebron, reaches 75% in the entire expanded Area C, and drops to 55% among residents of isolated Jerusalem.

We also asked the public how much they fear for themselves or their family in daily life from settler attacks. A majority of 54% of the public said they fear it very much or moderately while 47% said they fear it very little or not at all. The percentage of fear increases in area C and area B, reaching 60%  and 58%, respectively, and decreases in area A to 48%.  When looking at the expanded Area C and similar areas in terms of fear of settler terrorism, we find that this fear escalates to 90% in areas that have witnessed or are still witnessing such attacks in Areas B and C. It reaches 71% in the expanded C area, and 82% in H2 in Hebron, and reaches 58% among residents of isolated Jerusalem.

When asked respondents whether their area of residence has been attacked by settlers in the past two years, 20% of the public answered in the affirmative. This percentage rises to 56% in Area C and drops to 7% in Area A.   It also rises among residents of Area B and C of the expanded area adjacent to areas that  have been displaced and attacked to 77%, reaches  65% in H2, and declines to only 3% in isolated areas of Jerusalem. 

We asked the respondents whether the security conditions in their area of residence and the restrictions imposed by the occupation were pushing their neighbors to leave the area. A minority of 13% believes this is true and 62% believe it is not. Confirmation that it is true rises to 27% in area C and drops to 10% in area A. In the special areas, the percentage of confirmed transfer and displacements rises from 51% in the H2 area of Hebron to 42% in the vicinity of the areas of settlers’ attacks and displacement and drops to 18% in the isolated areas of Jerusalem.

When asked if the security situation in their area of residence is pushing the respondents themselves to move to a safer area, the vast majority answered negatively, with about 88% saying it does not lead them  to move to safer areas, compared to 12% who say it does push them to do so.  But the percentage of those who say “yes” rises in Area C to 19%.  The percentage of those who say it pushes them to seek safer areas ranges between 16% in the expanded Area C to 44%  in the H2 area. This percentage is one-third in isolated areas of Jerusalem and about a quarter in areas of displacement and settlers’ attacks.  

     Responding to settlers’ terrorism


    We asked the public about the most effective means of responding to settler terrorism: relying on the Israeli army to prevent such attacks, deploying Palestinian police forces in areas prone to attacks, forming armed groups from the  residents  of those areas, or  forming unarmed groups from the residents of those areas. . The results of this question were the most surprising, as the percentages of those who favored the protection of the Israeli army and those favoring the protection of the Palestinian police are identical. The largest percentage favored the formation of armed groups:

    1. Nearly half of the public said that forming armed groups is the most effective option and this is the strongest option among residents of H2 area (64%), then residents of areas that have been displaced or attacked by settlers (58%), isolated areas of Jerusalem (54%), residents of Area A (46%), B  (44%) and the entire expanded Area C (39%).
    2. The option of deploying Palestinian police forces in those areas came in a second place, receiving the support of one-fifth of the population.  The total population of the expanded Area C chose this option more than the rest of the areas (31%) while the lowest percentage of H2 residents (13%) chose it.
    3. The Israeli army option  also came in second, with one-fifth  of the population opting for it. The largest percentage favoring this option came from residents of Areas B and A (29% and 20% respectively), and the lowest percentage (4%) came from H2, and Area C (7%). 
    4. The option of forming unarmed groups came in last place, with only one-tenth of the population choosing it.  The largest percentage in favor of this option (20%) came from the residents of the H2 area, and the lowest percentage (3%) came from residents of isolated Jerusalem areas. It is clear that the majority of the Palestinian public does not see this option as an effective or realistic solution in the face of settler’s threats and violence.

      Refusing to rely on the Israeli army’s protection:


       What explains the small percentage, only one-fifth, in favor of asking for the help of the Israeli army in preventing settler attacks? The results indicate two main reasons:

      1. First, the Israeli army is perceived as a major threat to the Palestinian public. Indeed, the fear of settler terror is exacerbated by the high degree of concern and sense of the threat posed by the Israeli army to Palestinian citizens in all areas of the West Bank. There is a high degree of fear and anxiety about the Israeli army’s attacks amounting to about 70% of the entire population, with very to moderate anxiety and the rest saying that they have little or no anxiety. This anxiety stands at about three quarters in the extended area C.  Fear of the army’s attacks is particularly high in the areas most vulnerable to settler attacks at 93%, followed by H2 areas (89%), expanded Area C (78%), isolated Jerusalem (75%), and drop in Area A to 67%.

      1. Second, when asked about the role of the Israeli army in preventing or stopping settler attacks, a majority of 52% of residents of Area C says that the army does the opposite, that it supports settler terrorism. This percentage is especially higher in the areas most vulnerable to displacement or settlers’ attacks, where it reaches 70%. This finding explains the small percentage among them in favor of relying on the role of the army in preventing settler attacks. The percentage decreases in areas (a) and (b), where it reaches 28% and 22% respectively, which explains the relatively higher level of support for an army role among its residents. In the H2 area, 69% say the army watches settler attacks without intervening to prevent them; this is also the view of a majority of 68% in Area B, 61% in the Isolated Jerusalem Area, and 45% in the Expanded Area C.

        Reluctance to call for PA police protection


        What explains the small percentage, also one-fifth of the public, that favors the deployment of the Palestinian police forces to defend areas targeted by settler attacks? The findings provide several reasons behind this:

        1. First, it is clear from the findings that to date residents have not sought such protection, with more than 80% saying that residents of their towns have not requested it from the PA.  The percentage is higher in areas that the Palestinian police cannot reach, such as the H2 area, at 95%, followed by isolated areas of Jerusalem (93%).  Similar results are found in areas less vulnerable to settler attacks, such as Area A, where it stands at 86%. Curiously, however, the percentage is also very high in the areas where settler attacks are frequent, with 72% saying that residents of their towns did not demand the protection of the PA.

        1. The reluctance to request the protection from the PA police seems to be  the result of two very important things: first, the belief, which is unanimously shared by almost all  Palestinian residents of the West Bank, that the Palestinian police does not want and does not carry out its duty to protect, and second,  the  existence of a similar belief that the Palestinian security services are not actually  performing  their  duty to reach the areas of settler attacks, neither during nor after such attacks. 
        • Let's first begin with the belief that the Palestinian police is not carrying out its duty to protect. More than 90% believe that the Palestinian police does not protect them from settler attacks while only 8% say it does.  The perception that the PA police is not providing protection is higher in areas that are outside its jurisdiction, such as H2 (100%), isolated areas of Jerusalem (97%), and Area C (90%).  However, it is surprising that this answer also represents the consensus of Palestinians in areas subject to displacement or settler attacks, where the percentage stands at 98% despite the fact that these special locations are found in (B) and (C) areas, and in areas (A) and (B), where it stands at 90% and 91% respectively. These findings constitute a harsh and unequivocal indictment of the PA and its role in protecting Palestinian citizens from the greatest threat they face, especially in areas under its direct police control.

        • Moreover, the vast majority says that the Palestinian security services do not arrive at areas that are subject to settler attacks, whether during or after the attacks.  For example, 94% of residents of areas threatened with displacement or where settler attacks have occurred (in Areas B and C) say that the Palestinian security services do not reach their areas during or after the attacks.  As expected, this figure rises to 100% in H2 and 94% in isolated areas of Jerusalem, as these are areas in which the Palestinian police is not allowed to deploy its forces.  This percentage drops slightly to 88% in the expanded Area C, then drops to 82% in Area B, and then to 75% in Area A, which are directly under the official responsibility of  the Palestinian police.  These findings clearly indicate that the Palestinian public has little confidence in the ability of the Palestinian police to protect its people against settler attacks and that this attitude has been based on current and past observation.

        1. Apart from providing protection against settler attacks, we asked the public about  the last time they saw a uniformed Palestinian police  presence in their area.  While 81% of  Area A residents say they have seen  this in the past  two weeks or two,  this  percentage drops to 21% in  H2, 23% in  isolated areas of Jerusalem, and 28% in  Area  C, all of which are not under the responsibility of the Palestinian police. However, this percentage also drops in Area B,  which is under control, at only 64%, as  well as in areas prone to settler attacks or displacement,  both in Area B and C, where this figure stands at 42%.

        1. In the same context, we asked the public to assess whether the performance of the Palestinian police in providing security in their area of residence has improved or worsened.  Half of all Palestinians believe that this performance has worsened or somewhat worsened while 36% believe it has improved or somewhat improved, and 11% believe it has remained the same as before.  The percentage that says it has worsened or somewhat worsened increases in areas that are vulnerable to displacement or settler attacks (69%), H2 (67%), isolated areas of Jerusalem (40%), and Area C (40%). However, the results that are most damaging to the status of the Palestinian police come from Areas A and B, as they are under its direct jurisdiction, with 50% of Area A residents and 44% of Area B residents saying the police performance has worsened compared to 40% in A and 38% in B who say it has improved.   

        1. This evaluation of the performance of the Palestinian police is reflected in the assessment of security conditions and the imposition of law and order in general, with only 14% saying conditions are better now than there were in the past four years, 56% saying conditions are worse, and just under 30% saying conditions remain the same as before.  The belief that conditions have become worse is highest in H2 areas (80%), then areas that have seen displacement or were attacked by settlers (73%), and the expanded Area C, where it stands at 63%. Perhaps most importantly, a majority of 55% of the residents of Area A and 53% of the residents of Area B believe that the conditions of security, law and order have become worse.  By contrast, only 18% of Area A and 15% of Area B believe that conditions have become better. 

        1. The same assessment of security conditions and law enforcement is reflected in the performance of the Palestinian police in terms of protecting citizens from attacks by other Palestinians: 47% say the PA police does that while 51% say it does not.  The belief that the police does not provide this kind of protection and law enforcement is higher in areas over which it has no jurisdiction, such as the H2 area, where 98% say it does not deliver security or law enforcement, the isolated areas of  Jerusalem (89%) and the expanded Area C (70%).  However, this is also true in areas that have seen displacement or settler attacks (85%), and they are located in both B and C areas. Nonetheless, a majority of 59% in Area A and 51% in area B say the PA police does indeed provide protection and law enforcement and 42% in Area A and 47% in area B say the police does not. Moreover, when asked about their perception of safety and security, residents in A and B areas say they feel safe and secure by 70% and 73% respectively while the same percentage stands at less than 30% in H2 and the isolated Jerusalem areas.


        This poll has been conducted with funding from the Netherland Representative Office (NRO) to the Palestinian Authority. NRO is not responsible for the content of the report.