In an extensive report on a major survey of Palestinian public opinion, David Pollock sums up his key findings. Above all, the results suggest that large numbers of Palestinians are willing to make compromises with Israel in the short term, but tend to harbor maximalist, even militant, long-term goals:
In recent years, Palestinians in both Gaza and the West Bank/eastern Jerusalem have generally become both more pessimistic and less reconciled to the prospect of peace with Israel. The two-state solution has minority support. . . . This is the case amid insistent messaging from both Fatah and Hamas emphasizing their claim to “all of historic Palestine”—meaning the end of Israel as a separate state.
Majorities, [however], support various specific forms of economic cooperation with Israel even now. Substantial minorities also back certain specific, highly controversial concessions, even on “permanent-status” issues, in order to achieve a two-state solution some day: namely, ceding the refugee “right of return” to Israel, or recognizing it as “the homeland of the Jewish people.” Most recently, . . . majorities of Palestinians even support resuming negotiations with Israel without preconditions. And they opposed their own governments’ diplomatic boycott of Washington and preemptive rejection of the “Trump peace plan.”
The public is also split over continuing bonus payments to prisoners [held by Israel for committing acts of terror], rather than united behind this provocative policy, as Palestinian officials often claim. In all these ways, there is a clear—if often overlooked—divide between elite and “street” opinion, with Palestinian publics notably more moderate than their political leaders.
Majorities in Gaza, the West Bank, and eastern Jerusalem increasingly say that a two-state solution should not mean the end of conflict with Israel. Rather, around 60 percent would opt to continue the struggle to “liberate all of historic Palestine.” Reinforcing this point, around the same proportion now also say that any compromise with Israel should be only temporary.
[Yet] there is no evidence that the negative trend on permanent peace is inexorable. On the contrary, the larger point is that Palestinian attitudes are not static or impervious to influence, whether from within or without.