Nothing is lacking for the making of peace but the Arab persistence in denying Israel's very right to exist. Nothing can wrench out of our hearts or out of our policy this wish for peace, this hope of peace — not even our indignation over the killing of our loved ones, not even the enmity of the rulers of the Arab world.
- Golda Meir
As the Israeli incursions aimed at rooting out the Palestinian terrorist infrastructure in the West Bank and Gaza enter their second week, the United States and other nations have urged Israel to wrap up its military maneuvers quickly and seek a political and diplomatic solution to the escalating crisis. The establishment of a Palestinian state as endgame is a concept endorsed and supported by the Bush administration and Israel. Yet a poll taken in mid-February 2002 by the Development Studies Programme (DSP), an institute affiliated with Birzeit University in the West Bank, reveals that Palestinian statehood would probably not end the hostilities between Israelis and Palestinians. Of 1,198 Palestinians polled in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, 49.5 percent said that a future Palestinian state and Israel could not coexist peacefully.
The results of two other public-opinion surveys taken since Yasser Arafat unleashed his al-Aqsa intifada in September 2000 indicate that a large percentage of the Palestinian population does not want to make peace with Israel. The polls, sponsored by the DSP and the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PCPSR), surveyed Palestinians living in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip on their attitude toward the peace process, terrorism, coexistence with Israel and relations with Israelis. The polls were published in November 2000 (1,234 Palestinians polled) and December 2001 (1,357 Palestinians polled).
THE PEACE PROCESS
The public-opinion surveys on the peace process target issues such as the elimination of anti-Israel references in the official Palestinian Ministry of Education school curriculum, the partition of Jerusalem and the right of refugees to return. When respondents were asked in the December 2001 survey if a future Palestinian state should adopt a school curriculum that recognizes Israel and teach schoolchildren not to demand the return of all Palestine to the Palestinians, 90.7 percent of the respondents opposed or strongly opposed such a change in curriculum. In the November 2000 poll, a whopping 92 percent said that peace is not possible between Palestinians and Israelis if East Jerusalem is not the capital of a Palestinian state. Yasser Arafat has consistently called on Palestinians to wage jihad for Jerusalem and the responses reflect this. 74.3 percent of those surveyed answered that even if East Jerusalem were to come under Palestinian sovereignty, they still would not accept Israeli sovereignty over West Jerusalem. As for the question of refugees, 91.5 percent of Palestinians polled in November 2000 believe that peace is not possible if Israel does not recognize the right of Palestinian refugees to return.
When surveyed in December 2001, 81.8 percent of the Palestinian respondents supported or strongly supported armed attacks against Israeli targets, and 92.3 percent supported or strongly supported armed attacks against Israeli soldiers in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. In the same poll, 82.3 percent disagreed or strongly disagreed with defining the suicide bombing at the Dolphinarium discotheque that murdered 23 mostly teenage Israelis (and wounded 100 more) as a terrorist attack. 69.4 percent of the respondents questioned would not consider the use of chemical or biological weapons against Israel an act of terror. Thus, a significant number of Palestinians not only favors violent attacks on Israelis, but would support the use of weapons of mass destruction against Israeli civilians.
The Palestinian view of Israelis is not conducive to normalization of relations. In polls taken since November 2000, between 50 percent and 60 percent of Palestinian respondents asked if Palestinians and Israelis could coexist after an independent Palestinian state had been established next to the Israeli state answered that there is no chance for peaceful coexistence between the two peoples. Furthermore, even if a Palestinian state were established, 64.8 percent of the respondents in the November 2000 survey would not view a friendship between a Palestinian and an Israeli positively. And 62.3 percent of Palestinians surveyed in December 2001 would not invite an Israeli colleague to their home even if a peace agreement had been implemented and a Palestinian state were recognized by Israel.
CULTURE OF ANTI-JEWISH HATRED
The results of these public opinion surveys should not be surprising. After all, terrorist dictator Yasser Arafat has indoctrinated a generation of Palestinians with his vile culture of anti-Jewish hatred, so virulent it rivals that of Nazi Germany in the 1930s. Having agreed to abstain from incitement and hostile propaganda, he has violated the letter and the spirit of the Oslo accords with Israel. Sen. Connie Mack told Congress after a trip to Israel in 1999, "peace is a matter of the heart. How can peace be obtained when Palestinian children are being taught hatred?"
Arafat has made no attempt to change the hearts and minds of his people, but rather harden and poison them with his praise of jihad against Israel and his glorification of young suicide bombers as martyrs. And he certainly has not prepared the Palestinians for peaceful coexistence with Israel. What emerges from a reading of the polls is that the conflict is not about land or settlements or holy sites or water. The plain truth is that Yasser Arafat's war, instigated and funded by the Arab world, is about Israel's very right to exist.
Ronni Gordon Stillman is an associate scholar at the Middle East Forum. Alexander T. Stillman is president of the International Consulting Group.