Palestinian party affiliation and political attitudes toward the peace process.
On 13 September 1993, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Israel signed the Oslo Agreement, which included letters of recognition from both sides acknowledging their right to exist in peace and the right of the Palestinians for self-determination. What began in 1993 as a document of understanding, the Declaration of Principles (DOP), resulted in a dramatic change in the peace prospects for the Middle East region. Despite tension and conflict over its interpretation from both sides, the peace process has created many facts on the ground that appear to be irreversible.
Thus, by signing the Oslo Agreement, Palestinian and Israeli relations have changed. As a result, there are a number of questions to be asked about its consequences. Has this change taken root amongst the masses in Israel and the West Bank and Gaza? Will the public in both nations continue to be supportive and hopeful about their peaceful coexistence? Are the majority in both populations willing to alter the state of war and conflict which has shaped the Middle East for the past fifty years and give the peace process a chance to succeed? While understanding the opinion dynamics of both nations is beyond this article, it is critical nonetheless to acknowledge its importance.(1) I will, however, try to answer questions which pertain to the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.
The controversy over the peace negotiations between the PLO and Israel has intensified from 1993-4 to the present. The signing of the Oslo Agreement may have led many Palestinians to question the timing and the legitimacy of this agreement. The Palestinians led by the PLO have struggled for many years to regain their homeland and establish their own independent state. Also, when the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza launched their intifada against the Israeli occupation in December 1987, one clear purpose was to regain and to secure their political rights and end the Israeli occupation. However, the agreement fell short of these hopes and for many did not satisfy the Palestinian core demands of political and national rights.(2)
The signing of the Oslo Accords has led to many divisions among the Palestinians, particularly in the West Bank and Gaza. Before the Oslo stage, the Palestinians appeared to be more united, and to some extent pursued unified goals with respect to the Israeli occupation and the establishment of an independent state. There existed differences in tactics and goals between supporters of the PLO and the Islamic groups, but their similarities outweighed their differences. The agreement, however, widened existing differences and led to major divisions even within the PLO.(3)
The Islamic groups, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, have vowed to nullify the Oslo Accords. Their approach has been to carry out suicide attacks against Israeli targets in the West Bank and Gaza and inside Israel. Their attacks appear to have embarrassed the Palestinian Authority for not being able to exert its control over these groups. The zenith of the events took place in November 1994 when the Palestinian police clashed with supporters of Hamas and killed about thirty of its supporters. Thus, as we will see shortly, the peace process has polarized the Palestinians to the extent some observers have predicted a civil war between supporters of Fatah and supporters of the Islamic groups.(4) In addition, Hamas and the Islamic Jihad asked their supporters not to participate in the Palestinian legislative elections held in January 1996. Their opposition comes from their dissatisfaction with the Oslo Accords and the peace process. Their participation in the general election could have been interpreted as acceptance of the Oslo process and the legitimacy of Israel's existence.
POLITICAL PARTY AFFILIATION AND ISSUE ATTITUDES2
This essay focuses on the influences of party affiliation in determining Palestinian political attitudes toward the Palestinian-Israeli peace negotiations. It also examines the partisan roots of Palestinian attitudes toward armed attacks against Israel. It has been argued that individual perceptions, beliefs, attitudes, and behavior are influenced and determined in large part by the standards and values of the groups with which the individual identifies.(5) If party affiliation has an influence on political attitudes, then one would expect to find differences in the attitudes expressed by people who identify themselves with different political parties and groups. For example, adherents or supporters of Hamas hold different attitudes from those who support Fatah.
Party identification is a useful analytic tool in voting behavior and political attitude studies. The relationship between partisanship and issues has been one of the most debated in the research literature.(6) The first such research of the impact of party identification on political attitudes was conducted by Belknap and Campbell (1952).(7) They found that there was a strong association between party identification and attitudes toward American foreign policy issues. Since that time, Jacoby has argued that "virtually all of the work carried out in the field of mass political behavior has held that partisan attachments are an important source of policy orientations in the American electorate."(8)
Some scholars suggest that reference groups theory accounts for the relationship between party identification and issue attitudes. Jacoby argues, "According to this theory, individuals develop psychological attachments to certain groups in their environment. These groups then provide cues for structuring attitudes and behavior relevant to the group."(9) Political parties serve as reference groups for citizens. Thus, party identification functions as "a supplier of cues by which individuals may evaluate the elements of politics."(10) Miller also shows that party identification can be used as "a guide for the voter to opinions on current issues."(11) Miller and Levitin also suggest that "reference groups and their leaders provide norms and strategies for setting personal values and goals."(12) In short, people adopt the positions of the group or political party with which they identify.(13)
A large body of the literature concludes that party identification exerts an important impact on issue attitudes. For example, stronger partisanship (e.g., strong Republican, strong Democratic), may lead to more extreme issue positions. Jacoby concludes, "The stronger a person's attachment to his or her party, the closer the correspondence between the perceived party issue position and the individual's own attitude."(14) Converse (1969) suggested that strong party identification will more likely reflect the ideology issue position of political parties.(15) However, as in many other countries, it is unlikely that ideology is any thing other than an elite phenomenon.
On the other hand, there is a growing body of literature which argues that issues affect party identification, rather than the opposite casual ordering.(16) This chicken-egg controversy, whether partisanship affects attitudes, or issue attitudes affect partisanship is rather critical to inferences made on the data at hand. Although the conventional view holds that party identification influences attitudes, it is also possible that issues influence partisanship. Indeed, Brody and Page contend that "any correspondence between issue attitudes and perceived party positions could be due to rationalization processes wherein people 'project' their own feelings about issues onto their parties"(17)
While it is important to acknowledge the growing body of literature which contends that issues influence partisanship, it is not possible to test this hypothesis with the current Palestinian data to prove that issues preceded partisanship. In order to test this hypothesis, long-term panel data is needed for this purpose. Indeed, in emergent democracies, it might work differently where beliefs may have existed prior to the establishment of most political parties. This essay, however, will follow the conventional view that partisanship influences attitudes.
DATA AND METHODS
The data for this paper come from public opinion surveys conducted by the Survey Research Unit (SRU) of the Center for Palestine Research and Studies in September 1994 and September 1995. The two surveys contain a number of statements on attitudes toward the Palestinian-Israeli peace negotiations, armed attacks against Israel, performance of the Palestinian National Authority, Palestinian elections, and a host of other issues. The data provide an opportunity to asses differences in Palestinian political attitudes among adherents of the different political parties and groups in the West Bank and Gaza.
The data represent randomly selected samples of Palestinians aged eighteen years and above in the West Bank and Gaza. The Survey Research Unit used a multi-stage cluster sampling to represent the Palestinian population. The study of various characteristics of the population in the West Bank and Gaza required that cities, villages, and refugee camps be treated as clusters and then select a random sample of a certain number of them. The process of sample selection began with the creation of lists of all locations in the West Bank and Gaza according to districts, population size and distribution, and type of locality (e.g., city, town, village, and refugee camp). A random sample of these localities was included in the sample. Sampling units within each locality were chosen randomly.
Party affiliation in the West Bank and Gaza was measured by asking individuals their expected voting choices. Respondents were asked: "If elections were to be held today, and you decided to participate, you would vote for candidates affiliated with:" Responses were divided into eleven categories: Fatah, Fida, PPP, Nationalist Independents, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Islamic Independents, PFLP, DFLP, Others, and None oft he above.(18)
Party affiliation consists of the major political parties and groups in the West Bank and Gaza. This is not the best way to measure party affiliation, but this is the only available measure for Palestinian party affiliation. The same measure was first used by Belknap and Campbell (1952). Butler and Stokes (1974) justified the use of voting preferences as an indicator of party identification based on strong correlation between them.(19)
Palestinian political parties and groups in the West Bank and Gaza will be categorized and compressed into six main categories. This categorization is based on their positions toward the peace process.(20) Those who support the peace process, Fatah, Fida, and PPP are combined together. The Islamic groups, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, are the Islamic opposition. The leftist groups, PFLP and DFLP, are combined together. There were two further categories, one for the Nationalist Independents and one for the Islamic Independent respondents. The Non-Affiliated category comprises Others and None of the above.
This categorization is useful for statistical analysis. Primary testing and analysis of the data showed that political parties in the peace camp (Fatah, Fida, PPP) resemble each other with regard to the peace negotiations and armed attacks against Israel. In addition, there are many similarities in the socioeconomic and demographic factors among these groups. For example, their age, education, and place of residence are almost identical. The same is true of the Islamic and leftist groups. The Nationalist and Islamic Independents could not be combined because they represent different opinions and attitudes. The Nationalist Independents are closer to the peace camp with regard to their attitudes toward the peace process. The Islamic Independents are closer to Hamas and the Islamic Jihad. The Non-Affiliated respondents are those who refused to identify themselves with any of the above mentioned political parties and groups. The ordering of these political parties and groups will be as follows: (1) Fatah/Fida/PPP, (2) Nationalist Independents, (3) Islamic Independents, (4) Hamas/Islamic Jihad, (5) PFLP/DFLP, and finally (6) Non-Affiliated.
Measuring Palestinian attitudes toward the peace process with Israel were assessed by six questions. Two issues concerned the mass public approval of the peace negotiations between the PLO and Israel. Another four issues monitor attitudes toward armed attacks against Israeli military targets, civilian targets, and Israeli settlers in the West Bank and Gaza. Respondents were asked to indicate their opinion in relation to the following statement:
With regard to the negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians, one year after the signing of the Declaration of Principles, Oslo Agreement: (1) your support for the negotiation has increased, (2) your support has decreased, (3) your support has not changed and still opposed to the negotiations, or (4) your support has not changed and still supportive of the negotiations.(21)
For the purpose of this study and to simplify statistical analyses, I combined answer one and four together in one category, and answer two and three in another category. The responses of those who were still supportive of the negotiations were combined with those whose support had increased. In a similar fashion, respondents who still opposed the negotiations were combined with those whose support had decreased.
Table 1 shows the relationship between party affiliation and attitudes toward Palestinian-Israeli peace negotiations. Party affiliation has a profound impact on Palestinian political attitudes toward the peace negotiations. Support for the negotiations is overwhelming among supporters of Fatah, Fida, and PPP. Among supporters of the Islamic and leftist groups, the majority either oppose or have decreased their support for the peace process. Of Fatah, Fida, and PPP partisans, 82 percent said that they are supportive of the peace negotiations and their support has increased. Only 18 percent are opposed or have indicated a decrease in their support for the peace negotiations.
The opposition groups have different attitudes toward the peace process. Supporters of the Islamic groups, Hamas and the Islamic Jihad, have negative attitudes and they are opposed to the peace negotiations. Seventy-one percent of the Islamic groups supporters said that they are opposed in some fashion to the peace negotiations, contrasted to 29 percent who are supportive. The leftist groups, followers of the PFLP and DFLP, are considerably more opposed to the peace negotiations with Israel than the Islamic supporters.
The strong opposition among the leftist and Islamic groups may be due to the conditions agreed upon in the Oslo Accords. As discussed earlier, the agreement fell short of Palestinian hopes and ambitions summarized as, total Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza, and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state. Another important factor might be Palestinian conditions after Oslo. Did the Oslo Agreement achieve any tangible results for the Palestinians a year after it was signed? Did they achieve any sense of independence from Israel? Are the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza better off economically after Oslo? Supporters of the Islamic and leftist groups might not have felt any positive results of the peace process. Although one year after the signing of the Oslo Agreement is not enough to evaluate the Palestinian-Israeli peace negotiations, the Palestinians were expecting positive and quick results on the ground. This, however, did not happen.
Two years after the Oslo Agreement, in September 1995, the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza were asked to indicate their approval or disapproval of the peace negotiations. The purpose of this question was to compare Palestinian political attitudes toward the peace process between September 1994 and September 1995. To gauge Palestinian mass political attitudes toward the continuation of the peace negotiations, respondents were asked to indicate their response to the following question: "Do you support the continuation of the current peace negotiations between the PLO and Israel?" Response categories were: yes, no, and not sure.(22)
TABLE 1. SUPPORT FOR PEACE NEGOTIATIONS IN SEPTEMBER 1994 BY PARTISAN GROUPS(*) Party Fatah Natl Islamic Hamas PFLP None Total PPP Ind. Ind. Jihad DFLP Fida Support 82% 51% 36% 29% 15% 51% 642 Oppose 18 49 64 71 85 49 453 Total 513 65 36 146 103 232 N = 1097 * The number in each cell entry is column percentages. Chi-square value is 262.90, df = 5, Chi-square test is significant at the .0001. Source: Center for Palestine Research and Studies, September 1994.
Table 2 shows the association between party affiliation and attitudes toward the peace negotiations in September 1995. Palestinian support for the peace negotiations had increased gradually since the signing of the Oslo Agreement. Two years after Oslo, 80 percent of the Palestinians supported the continuation of the peace negotiations. Backing for the peace negotiations increased among supporters of all political parties and groups. However, an overwhelming 92 percent support can be seen among supporters of Fatah, Fida, and PPP. The Nationalist Independents also supported the continuation of the negotiations with an overwhelming majority.
The Islamic and leftist groups, on the other hand, were split between supporting and opposing the continuation of these negotiations. Although their support increased from the previous year, they still viewed the peace negotiations with suspicion. Why did the Islamic and leftist supporters increase their support for the peace negotiations? Did they feel that the peace negotiations are more important than pursuing armed struggle against Israel? Did they feel that the peace process would lead to the establishment of an independent state? Did their economic conditions improve? These are some of the questions that might shed lights on their political attitudes.
TABLE 2. SUPPORT FOR THE CONTINUATION OF PEACE NEGOTIATIONS IN 1995 BY PARTISAN GROUPS(*) Party Fatah Natl Islamic Hamas PFLP None Total PPP Ind. Ind. Jihad DFLP Fida Support 94% 73% 66% 53% 47% 76% 826 Oppose 6 27 34 47 53 24 233 Total 502 70 90 192 49 156 N = 1059 * The number in each cell entry is column percentages. Chi-square value is 183.47, df = 5, Chi-square test is significant at the .0001. Source: Center for Palestine Research and Studies, September 1995.
Table 3 shows the differences in support for the peace negotiations in 1994 and 1995 by partisan groups. There was an overwhelming increase in support for the peace negotiations among supporters of the leftist groups, PFLP and DFLP, Islamic Independent respondents, and supporters of the Islamic groups, Hamas and the Islamic Jihad. Two years after the signing of the Oslo Agreement, support for the peace process was at its zenith among supporters of most political parties and groups. Supporters of the Islamic and leftist groups who hesitated to support the peace negotiations a year earlier, were more willing to give the peace process a chance.
Since the signing of the Oslo Agreement, there have been many ups and downs in the peace process. It appears that the Palestinians support the peace negotiations when they feel that Israel is serious about withdrawing from the West Bank and Gaza and ready to relinquish its territorial claims in those areas. The increase in Palestinian support in September 1995 was due to the fact that the PLO and Israel were close to signing the Oslo II Agreement - which was ultimately signed on 28 September 1995.(23)
Palestinian attitudes toward armed attacks against Israeli targets were assessed by four questions. One of these questions dealt with armed attacks against Israeli targets in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank town of Jericho, where the Israeli army first redeployed from Palestinian territories in May 1994. Respondents were asked to indicate their opinion to the following question: "Do you support the continuing resort of some Palestinian factions to armed operations against Israeli targets in Gaza and Jericho?"(24) This question measures Palestinian attitudes toward armed attacks against Israeli targets, one year after the Oslo Agreement. Israeli targets in the Gaza Strip and Jericho are either Israeli settlers or soldiers stationed to protect the settlements. The majority of the respondents, 56 percent, indicated their rejection of such attacks against Israeli targets in these areas.
TABLE 3. DIFFERENCES IN SUPPORT FOR PEACE NEGOTIATIONS BETWEEN 1994 AND 1995 BY PARTISANS(*) Party Support 1994 Support 1995 Difference Fatah/PPP/Fida 82% 94% +12 National Ind. 51 73 +22 Islamic Ind. 36 66 +30 Hamas/Isl. Jihad 29 53 +24 PFLP/DFLP 15 47 +32 None 51 76 +25 * The number in each cell entry is percentages for peace support. Note: This table is based on the results reported in Tables 1 and 2. Source: Center for Palestine Research and Studies, September 1994 and September 1995
The results in Table 4 show that the majority of Fatah, Fida, and PPP supporters rejected the use of armed attacks against Israelis, while most of the leftist groups supporters (PFLP and DFLP) support such attacks. Supporters of the Islamic groups, Hamas and the Islamic Jihad, are split in their support for such attacks. Although over half favored armed attacks, slightly less than half opposed them.
It appears that adherents of the leftist and Islamic groups support the use of armed attacks against Israelis in Gaza and Jericho for the following reasons: United Nations Resolution 242, passed in November 1967 after the June War, emphasized the "inadmissibility of territorial acquisition by force" and called for "the withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in recent  conflict." Israel has yet to do so. The Palestinians reject the presence of Israeli settlers and settlements in the West Bank and Gaza. Thus, some consider it legitimate to attack Israeli settlers there. On the other hand, those who oppose the use of armed attacks against Israelis in Gaza and Jericho believe or hope that Israel will dismantle those settlements when the PLO and Israel sign their final peace agreement by May 1999.
TABLE 4 USE OF ARMED ATTACKS AGAINST ISRAELIS IN GAZA AND JERICHO IN 1994 BY PARTISAN GROUPS Party Fatah Natl Islamic Hamas PFLP None Total PPP Ind. Ind. Jihad DFLP Fida Support 24% 46% 45% 56% 74% 34% 403 Oppose 76 54 55 44 26 66 685 Total 505 59 38 149 101 236 N = 1088 * The number in each cell entry is column percentages. Chi-square value is 123.18, df = 5, Chi-square test is significant at the .0001. Source: Center for Palestine Research and Studies, September, 1994.
Two years after the signing of the Oslo Agreement, respondents were asked to indicate their opinions to the following questions in September 1995:
(1) with regard to armed attacks against Israeli army targets,
(a) I support them, (b) oppose them, or (c) have no opinion;
(2) with regard to armed attacks against Israeli settler,
(a) I support them, (b) oppose them, or (c) have no opinion; and
(3) with regard to armed attacks against Israeli civilian targets,
(a) I support them, (b) oppose them, or (c) have no opinion.(25)
These questions were used to assess to what extent the Palestinians are prepared to live in peace with the Israeli military, settlers, and civilians.(26)
Table 5 shows that with regard to the first and second questions, the use of armed attacks against Israeli military targets and settlers in the West Bank and Gaza, the majority of the Palestinians support them. This support is seen across adherents of all political parties and groups, however, more support is among supporters of the opposition groups.
It is important to explain the paradox of Palestinian political attitudes toward Israel. The majority supports the peace negotiations, however, an equal number of Palestinians support the use of armed attacks against Israeli military targets and settlers. The presence of the Israeli army in parts of the Gaza Strip and most of the West Bank and Israeli settlements might cause the Palestinians to support the use of armed attacks against them. Shikaki (1996) contends that Palestinian support for the use of armed attacks against Israeli military targets and settlers does not indicate "opposition to the peace process but Palestinian insistence that the process entails an end to occupation and settlements."(27)
On the other hand, Palestinian support for armed attacks against Israeli civilian targets is supported only by a small minority of the Palestinians. Israeli civilian targets are those considered inside Israel, outside the West Bank and Gaza. Twenty percent of all respondents supported armed attacks against civilian targets. Support for these attacks is high among adherents of the Islamic groups, Hamas and the Islamic Jihad, and to a lesser degree among supporters of the PFLP and DFLP. The majority of Palestinians oppose the use of any violence against Israeli civilians. It appears that the overwhelming majority of the Palestinians are ready to abandon the use of armed attacks if Israel withdraws its army and dismantles its settlements from the West Bank and Gaza.
Although some of the Islamic and leftist supporters favor such attacks against Israeli civilians, it constitutes only a small minority of the Palestinians as a whole. The lowest level of support for such attacks is among supporters of Fatah, PPP, and Fida. There is a strong association between their attitudes toward the peace negotiations and armed attacks. While an overwhelming majority supports the peace negotiations, only 12 percent support armed attacks against civilians. On the other hand, support for political violence is high among the Islamic and leftist groups, particularly, the latter.
TABLE 5. SUPPORT FOR THE USE OF ARMED ATTACKS AGAINST ISRAEL IN 1995, BY PARTISAN GROUPS(*) (1) Use of armed attacks against Israeli military targets, 1995a Party Fatah Natl Islamic Hamas PFLP None Total PPP Ind. Ind. Jibed DFLP Fida Support 69% 78% 81% 91% 90% 69% 820 Oppose 31 22 19 9 10 31 261 Total 489 63 103 206 58 162 N = 1081 (2) Use of armed attacks against Israeli settlers in the West Bank and Gaza, 1995b Party Fatah Natl Islamic Hamas PFLP None Total PPP Ind. Ind. Jibed DFLP Fida Support 73% 75% 81% 84% 89% 65% 832 Oppose 27 25 19 16 11 35 272 Total 502 69 101 211 56 165 N = 1104 (3) Use of armed attacks against Israeli civilian targets, 1995c Party Fatah Natl Islamic Hamas PFLP None Total PPP Ind. Ind. Jibed DFLP Fida Support 12% 10% 25% 42% 32% 15% 220 Oppose 88 90 75 58 68 85 869 Total 495 68 104 201 56 165 N = 1089 * The number in each cell entry is column percentages. 1. Chi-square value is 49.33, df = 5, Chi-square test is significant at the .0001 2. Chi-square value is 27.97, df = 5, Chi-square test is significant at the .0001. 3. Chi-square value is 91.03, df = 5, Chi-square test is significant at the .0001. Source: Center for Palestine Research and Studies, September 1995.
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION
Partisanship is one of the most important predictors of political attitudes. Those who identify with Fatah/Fida/PPP, Hamas/Islamic Jihad, or PFLP/DFLP adhere to the positions and principles of their parties. There appears to be a strong association between the attitudes of mass public and the attitudes of their party leadership. We have not performed a specific elite analysis, yet the conclusion seems reasonable at this time.
There are two important inferences from the relationship between party affiliation and attitudes toward the peace negotiations and the use of armed attacks against Israel. The results show that party affiliation is a significant and consistent predictor of political attitudes toward the peace negotiations. Partisan groups support or oppose in a fashion consistent with their respective elites. Furthermore, the impact of party affiliation is in expected directions. For example, adherents of Fatah/Fida/PPP support the peace negotiations and oppose the use of violence against Israel except against the settlers. On the other hand, the Islamic and leftist groups oppose the peace negotiations and support the continuation of armed snuggle against Israel without differentiating between military or civilian targets. These attitudes are reflective of the leadership of the respective political parties and groups.
Further statistical testing shows that party affiliation is not the only factor explaining attitudes toward the Oslo Agreement and attitudes toward armed attacks. Specific socio-demographic variables are important predictors of political attitudes toward the peace negotiations and armed attacks. Education is a very strong factor related to the peace process. Better educated respondents are more likely to oppose the peace negotiations and support armed attacks against Israeli targets. Age showed a similar effect. Older respondents are more likely to support the peace agreement and are opposed to the use of political violence. Placed in the current context, younger Palestinians pose a volatile element within the population. Their potential for violence and less willingness to support the peace negotiations will be a critical factor in the future.
Place of residence is one of the strongest predictor of attitudes. Respondents who live in refugee camps are more likely to oppose the peace negotiations with Israel and support armed struggle. The implication of this issue is that the refugees' socio-economic conditions must be improved to sway them to support the peace process and oppose the use of violence.
Finally, there is a strong statistical association between attitudes toward the peace negotiations and attitudes toward armed attacks. Palestinians who support the peace negotiations are more likely to oppose the use of armed attacks. Also, Palestinians who view the Palestine National Authority positively are more likely to support the peace negotiations and oppose armed attacks against Israel. This holds regardless of party affiliation, age, education, or place of residence.
One important conclusion of this study is that if peace is to succeed between the Palestinians and Israel, it must be fair and just. These results can be summed up in a statement signed by hundreds of prominent Palestinian men and women, including professionals, politicians, activists, members of the PNC and present and former members of the PLO Executive Committee. It states:
There can be no peace so long as the Palestinian people are deprived of their right of self-determination and the right to return, and the right to establish an independent Palestinian state on Palestinian soil with Jerusalem as its capital. There can be no peace if Jewish settlements remain in place and the Palestinian detainees are not freed and if Israel continues to exercise domination over the Palestinian people and to deny them full sovereignty over their land, water resources, and the borders of their state.(28)
One of the most important implications of this study is that the Palestinians show their support when the peace process moves and entails positive results. It has been argued that public opinion polls are "a snap shot of the day." People change their opinions and attitudes as a result of many factors. More than 60 percent of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza supported the Oslo Agreement when it was signed. Support for the peace process reached a high level after the signing of Oslo II, which was followed by the withdrawal of the Israeli army from all the West Bank cities except Hebron during November-December 1995. A public opinion survey taken in early December 1995 showed that 85 percent of the Palestinians supported the peace process.(29) However, Palestinian support for the peace process declined sharply after Israel started the construction of a new settlement at Abu Ghneim in East Jerusalem.(30)
The data discussed in this article is approximately three years old, but the conclusions which can be drawn from it are valid to this moment. The Palestinians appear to support the peace negotiations when there are positive results on the ground, and support the use of armed struggle when the process does not move forward. This is the way the Palestinians have felt toward the peace process since its beginning. Under the Israeli Labor government, there were a few positive results which came as a result of the withdrawal of the Israeli army from most of the Gaza Strip and the populated areas of the West Bank. However, the peace process seems to have stopped with the advent of the Netanyahu government. As a result, many analysts believe that the peace process is dying, if it is not already dead. In spite of that, Palestinian support for the peace process has not gone below 50 percent since the signing of the Oslo Agreement. But support for the use of armed struggle is on the rise. This is based on many public opinion surveys conducted by the Center for Palestine Research and Studies in the past four years. It will be very important to compare the results of the current surveys with future data.
Also, one of the most important findings of this study is that party affiliation in the West Bank and Gaza holds in a fashion similar to that in the United States and Western democracies. Palestinian party affiliation appears to exert constraint on mass public attitudes. The mass public is conforming to the attitudes of their respective political parties and groups. Adherents of Fatah/Fida/PPP support the peace negotiations and oppose the use of violence against Israel. On the other hand, adherents of the Islamic and leftist groups, just like their leadership, oppose the peace negotiations and support the use of armed attacks against Israel. In short, party affiliation in the West Bank and Gaza is as valuable as in countries with long experiences with democracy and its tools.
1. For a discussion of Israeli public opinion toward the Palestinians, see Murad A'si, Israeli and Palestinian Public Opinion (Washington, D.C.: The International Center for Research and Public policy, 1986). See also Asher Arian, Michal Shamir, and Raphael Ventura, "Public Opinion and Political Change: Israel and the Intifada," Comparative Politics 24 (1992): 317-334.
2. For more discussion of the Oslo Agreement, September 1993, see P. R. Kumaraswamy, "The Gaza-Jericho Agreement: An Asymmetrical Accord," Strategic Analysis 17 (1994): 219-232. See also Graham Usher, "The Politics of Internal Security: The PA's New Intelligence Services," Journal of Palestine Studies 25 (Winter 1996): 21-34.
3. After the signing of the Oslo Agreement, many members of the PLO Executive Committee resigned in protest. Also, the PFLP and DFLP refused to accept the terms of the agreement.
4. New York Times, 27 November 1994.
5. George Belknap and Angus Campbell, "Political Party Identification and Attitudes toward Foreign Policy," Public Opinion Quarterly 15 (1952): 601.
6. Angus Campbell, Philip E. Converse, Warren E. Miller, and Donald E. Stokes, The American Voter (New York: Wiley, 1960). Norman H. Nie, Sidney Verba, and John R. Petrocik, The Changing American Voter (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1976). William G. Jacoby, "The Impact of Party Identification on Issue Attitudes," American Journal of Political Science 32 (1988): 643-661.
7. Belknap and Campbell, "Political Party Identification and Attitudes toward Foreign Policy."
8. Jacoby, "The Impact of Party Identification on Issue Attitudes," 643.
9. Ibid., 644.
10. Campbell et al., The American Voter, 128.
11. Warren E. Miller, "The Cross-National Use of Party Identification as a Stimulus to Political Inquiry," in Party Identification and Beyond, ed. Ian Budge, Ivor Crewe, and Dennis Farlie (New York: John Wiley, 1976), 27
12. Warren E. Miller and Teresa Levitin, Leadership and Change (Cambridge, MA: Winthrop, 1977), 31.
13. Diane Mackie and Joel Cooper, "Attitude Polarization: Effects of Group Membership," Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 46 (1984): 575-585.
14. Jacoby, "The Impact of Party Identification on Issue Attitudes," 657.
15. Philip E. Converse, "The Nature of Belief Systems in Mass Publics," in Ideology and Discontent, ed. David Apter (New York: The Free Press, 1964).
16. See John E. Jackson, "Issues, Parties, and Presidential Votes," American Journal of Political Science 19 (1975): 161-85; Kenneth Meier, "Party Identification and Vote Choice: The Causal Relationship," Western Political Quarterly 28 (1975): 496-505; Benjamin I. Page and Calvin C. Jones, "Reciprocal Effects of Policy Preferences, Party Loyalties, and the Vote," American Political Science Review 73 (1979): 1071-90; Robert S. Erikson, "The 'Uncorrelated Errors' Approach to the Problem of Causal Feedback," Journal of Politics 44 (1982): 863-81; Stephen M. Weatherford, "Reciprocal Causation in a Model of the Vote: Replication and Extension," Political Behavior 5 (1983): 191-208.
17. Quoted in Jacoby, "The Impact of Party Identification on Issue Attitudes," 648.
18. The original question was asked in Arabic and translated later by the Center for Palestine Research and Studies. The names of the above mentioned political parties and groups were mentioned and respondents were asked to select one of them which corresponds to the candidate they like to vote for. The ordering of these political parties and groups differ from one survey to another. The abbreviated names for these groups are as follows: Fida is the Palestine Democratic Union, PPP is the Palestine People's Party, PFLP is the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and DFLP is the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
19. David Butler and Donald Stokes, Political Change in Britain: The Evolution of Electoral Choice (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1974).
20. Khalil Shikaki, "The Peace Process, National Reconstruction, and the Transition to Democracy in Palestine," Journal of Palestine Studies 25 (Winter 1996): 6.
21. The question was originally asked in Arabic and translated by the Center for Palestine Research and Studies, September 1994.
22. This poll was conducted by CPRS in August-September 1995, two years after the signing of the Oslo Agreement, and more than a year after the Palestine National Authority was established in the West Bank and Gaza.
23. Under the Labor government, Israel and the PLO signed the Oslo II agreement on 28 September 1995. The agreement stipulated the withdrawal of the Israeli army from all West Bank cities, and divided the West Bank into three areas. Area A, the most populated Palestinian cities (Jenin, Tulkaram, Nablus, Ramallah, Bethlehem, and Hebron) to be governed by the Palestinian Authority solely. Area A constitutes three percent of the West Bank. Area B, where 450 Palestinian villages are located, is to be administered by the Palestinian Authority, and Israel is responsible for security. It is approximately 27% of the West Bank. The larger part of the West Bank is Area C where the Israeli settlements are located. The Israeli army has total control over this area.
24. Responses to this question were yes, no, and no opinion (CPRS, September 1994).
25. CPRS, August-September 1995.
26. Israeli civilian targets are considered those within Israel's 1948 borders. It is implied that anything beyond these borders is considered within the West Bank and Gaza.
27. Shikaki, "The Peace Process, National Reconstruction, and the Transition to Democracy in Palestine," 7.
28. Center for Policy Analysis on Palestine, Beyond Rhetoric: Perspectives on a Negotiated Settlement in Palestine (Washington, D.C.: Center for Policy Analysis on Palestine, 1996), 1.
29. Jerusalem Post, 30 December 1995.
30. Jerusalem Post, 23 April 1997.
Mkhaimar S. Abusada is an assistant professor of political Science at al-Azhar University, Gaza, Palestine. The author wishes to thank Professors Thad A. Brown and Jamal R. Nassar for their critical suggestions of an earlier version of this article.
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|Author:||Abusada, Mkhaimar S.|
|Publication:||Arab Studies Quarterly (ASQ)|
|Date:||Jun 22, 1998|
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