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Poll: Spike in Palestinian support for military operations against Israel

Spurred by the recent Gaza conflict, continued settlement expansion, and a stalled peace process, Palestinian support for a military operation against Israel has jumped 20 percentage points in a year.

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“There has been a shift from negotiations to struggle against the [Israeli] occupation,” says Hassan Khresheh, deputy speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council, who lives in the West Bank city of Tulkarem. “[Palestinians] believe that negotiating for many years has given them nothing except more settlements and more settlers.”

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Indeed, after nearly 20 years of negotiation with Israel, during which Israeli settlement in the West Bank and East Jerusalem roughly doubled to more than 550,000, Palestinians are increasingly questioning the value of talking with Israel. By contrast, most Palestinians saw Hamas – which targeted Tel Aviv and Jerusalem with missiles for the first time – as victorious in the recent conflict, since Israel refrained from a ground invasion and made significant concessions in the cease-fire talks.

“The public is comparing the diplomatic, peaceful negotiation approach of [Abbas] that has been actually taking us from bad to worse … with the violent approach of Hamas and Gaza, and they seem to be more attracted to the Gaza model rather than the West Bank model,” says Ghassan Khatib, former PA spokesman and founder of the Jerusalem Media and Communication Centre, which conducted the recent poll showing an uptick in Palestinian support for military operations. (The poll was published Dec. 20 and can be found here.)

“This is a bigger fluctuation than anything we saw in the last 10 years,” Mr. Khatib says, though he adds that it’s too soon to tell whether it’s just a temporary spike or something more enduring.

Over the weekend, an Israeli commander in the West Bank reportedly told reserve troops that a third intifada is already under way.  

Armed, masked men at Fatah rally

This week, undercover Israeli operations in Jenin and Tamoun sparked demonstrations in both places, injuring dozens of Palestinians. In addition, masked, armed men participated in a Fatah Day rally in Bethlehem’s Dheisheh refugee camp – something that hasn’t been seen in the West Bank for years. Their presence was reported by the Israeli news outlet YnetNews, which posted a video. Nasser al-Laham, editor of the Bethlehem-based Palestinian news agency Maan, confirmed the reports for the Monitor.

Mohammad Laham, a Fatah leader in Bethlehem, says he wasn’t present at the march but points to the tremendous economic pressure the PA is facing, particularly since Israel withheld tax revenues it collects on behalf of the PA, as one of the reasons for local discontent. Israel's move was seen as retaliation for Abbas’s UN bid, but Israel said the money was taken to offset PA debts for Israeli electricity services.

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