A GAZA CITY resident searches for his belongings under the rubble of a building that was destroyed during air strikes by Israel..
(photo credit: MOHAMMED SALEM/REUTERS)
Close to half of Israelis are in favor of removing the 12-year-long blockade on the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, a new study by the Academic Institute for Structural Reforms has found.
The study, carried out by Panel Project, surveyed a sample of 608 Jews and Arabs, examining their attitudes towards Gaza and its economic situation in relation to violence, the effectiveness of Israel’s policy towards the Strip and possible solutions for the economic and humanitarian crises.
According to the study’s findings, 80% of respondents think that the economic situation in Gaza is “difficult to severe,” while another 61% agree that the difficult economic situation in Gaza is directly related to the violent conflict between Hamas and Israel.
The survey found that 65% of respondents view Hamas as responsible for the economic crisis, and another 7% blamed the Palestinian Authority and Mahmoud Abbas, while only 4% held Israel accountable.
According to the survey, 51% of respondents believe that Israel should care about the economic and humanitarian situation in the coastal enclave – but are more hesitant when it comes to steps that the government should take, preferring that private businesspeople or other countries step in instead of the Jewish state.
As for who should take part in Gaza’s rehabilitation, 49% of respondents said they were in favor of Arab billionaires as part of Trump’s “Deal of the Century” while 45% said they supported collaboration between Israeli and Palestinian businessmen, which would help promote employment and commerce for both sides.
According to the survey, 29% of respondents said that Israel should help with the rehabilitation of the Strip “only if the effort is led by other countries”; 25% are against any Israeli participation but would not be opposed to other countries leading the effort; and 23% are opposed to any kind of assistance so long as there is no political settlement.
Only 11% are in favor of Israel taking sole responsibility to help rehabilitate Gaza, which the United Nations has warned is on the verge of a humanitarian catastrophe.
“The studies prove that most Israelis recognize the need for rethinking the policy towards Gaza. Despite security concerns, the Israeli public is aware of the fact that economic hardship leads to political violence, and that resolving this situation is an urgent Israeli priority,” said AISR executive director Baruch Gurevich.
“If the Israeli leaders would gather their wits and urgently promote the economic rehabilitation of Gaza, the studies show that they will enjoy the support of a sizeable portion of the Israeli public,” he added.
According to the survey, 60% of respondents acknowledged that poverty, unemployment and economic hardship increases the radicalizing effect on the population more than Israeli military operations.
“Our results still refute the claim that the blockade has turned public opinion against Hamas, and provide further evidence for the growing radicalization of Palestinians in Gaza under the existing conditions,” the study said, adding that the likelihood of a Gaza resident supporting extremist factions over the moderate ones is 1.35 times higher than that of a West Bank resident.
Hamas seized power over the 40-km.-long coastal enclave in 2007 and has gone to war with Israel three times since – Operation Cast Lead in 2008-2009, Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012, and Operation Protective Edge in 2014.
The military operations have left the Gaza Strip – home to nearly 2 million people – in ruins. Despite hundreds of millions of dollars in international aid money, minimal reconstruction has been carried out.
Over the past 14 months, thousands of Palestinians have been taking part in violent weekly protests along the Gaza border fence, demanding an end to the blockade. There have also been nine rounds of conflict between Israel and terror groups in the Strip, with more than 1,000 rockets fired towards Israel in the past year alone.
The IDF believes that while Hamas is not interested in a long military conflict with Israel, the terror group might spark a short period of intense fighting to negotiate a ceasefire with the help of the international community, which would allow the group to improve economic and humanitarian conditions.
IDF officials have repeatedly said it is in Israel’s best interests to ensure that basic needs are met in the Gaza Strip – and have been examining ways to improve the dire humanitarian situation in the coastal enclave to avoid a violent escalation that could lead to another deadly war.
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