What Palestinians Want

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.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Palestinian public opinion, Palestinians, Two-State Solution

An Israeli Buffer Zone in the Gaza Strip Doesn’t Violate International Law

 The IDF announced on Thursday that it is safe for residents to return to some of the towns and villages near the Gaza Strip that have been abandoned since October 7. Yet on the same day, rocket sirens sounded in one of those communities, Kibbutz Mefalsim. To help ensure security in the area, Israel is considering the creation of a buffer zone within the Strip that would be closed to Palestinian civilians and buildings. The U.S. has indicated, however, that it would not look favorably on such a step.

Avraham Shalev explains why it’s necessary:

The creation of a security buffer along the Gaza-Israel border serves the purpose of destroying Hamas’s infrastructure and eliminating the threat to Israel. . . . Some Palestinian structures are practically on the border, and only several hundred yards away from Israeli communities such as Kfar Aza, Kerem Shalom, and Sderot. The Palestinian terrorists that carried out the murderous October 7 attacks crossed into Israel from many of these border-adjacent areas. Hamas officials have already vowed that “we will do this again and again. The al-Aqsa Flood [the October 7th massacre] is just the first time, and there will be a second, a third, a fourth.”

In 2018 and 2019, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad organized mass marches towards the Israeli border with the goal of breaking into Israel. Billed by Palestinians as “the Great March of Return,” its name reveals its purpose—invasion. Although the marches were supposedly non-violent, they featured largescale attacks on Israeli forces as well as arson and damage to Israeli agriculture and civilian communities. Moreover, the October 7 massacre was made possible by Hamas’s prepositioning military hardware along the border under false cover of civilian activity. The security perimeter is intended to prevent a reprise of these events.

Shalev goes on to dismantle the arguments put forth about why international law prohibits Israel from creating the buffer zone. He notes:

By way of comparison, following the defeat of Nazi Germany, France occupied the Saar [River Valley] directly until 1947 and then indirectly until reintegration with Germany in 1957, and the Allied occupation of Berlin continued until the reunification of Germany in 1990. The Allies maintained their occupation long after the fall of the Nazi regime, due to the threat of Soviet invasion and conquest of West Berlin, and by extension Western Europe.

Read more at Kohelet

More about: Gaza Strip, Gaza War 2023, International Law, Israeli Security