(photo credit: AP)
A public opinion poll published on Tuesday showed that support for Hamas and Hizbullah among the Palestinians has increased over the past few weeks and that the number of those who believe in peace with Israel has dropped sharply.
The poll, conducted by the Ramallah-based Near East Consulting group, covered more than 1,200 Palestinians living in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem. Its margin of error is reported to be 3.6%.
The poll was held in the first week of August and is an indication of the growing radicalization of Palestinian society. Its findings also show that support for Hamas has not been affected, despite US-led sanctions against the Hamas government.
Another interesting finding is the fact that the Palestinians in the West Bank appear to be more radical in their views against Israel than their brethren in the Gaza Strip, a traditional stronghold of Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
While about 76% of the Palestinians in June declared their support for a peaceful settlement with Israel, the percentage after five weeks dropped by 25% to reach 51%, according to the results of the latest poll.
Support for peace is stronger among Fatah supporters (63%) than among Hamas supporters (32%). In the Gaza Strip, support for the peace process stood at 63%, while in the West Bank it was only 44%.
The poll found that there was an increase in the number of Palestinians who support Hamas's desire to eliminate Israel.
For the first time, a majority of 55% agreed that Hamas should not change its position regarding the destruction of Israel. Even 29% of the Christian Palestinians share this view.
The war in Lebanon has increased support for Hizbullah, with an overwhelming majority of 97% voicing their backing with the Shiite group. This position, according to the poll, is also held by 95% of the Christians.
Hizbullah's popularity intensified after the war began. More than 56% of the Palestinians said that their support for Hizbullah has increased over the past month, while 30% said it remained the same.
Again, the Christian minority also appears to have been radicalized by the war in Lebanon, as 66% of them said that their support for Hizbullah was now stronger than ever.
In yet another disturbing finding, most Palestinians no longer see Israel as a peace partner. About 75% of those polled said they do not believe there is a peace partner for the Palestinians in Israel, as opposed to 71% who said that Israel does have a partner on the Palestinian side.
Among Palestinian Christians, 63% also do not believe that the Palestinians have a peace partner in Israel.
Asked about kidnapped IDF soldier Cpl Gilad Shalit, who is being held in the Gaza Strip by Hamas and other armed militias, about 91% of the Palestinian public does not believe he should be released unconditionally. The vast majority of the Palestinians, 70%, believe that an unconditional release will not make any difference as far as the Israeli attacks are concerned.
A report in the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper claimed on Tuesday that Shalit's kidnappers were seeking the release of jailed Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti, as well as leaders of other factions, including Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
The paper quoted Abu Mujahid, a spokesman for the kidnappers, as saying that they had prepared a list with the names of Barghouti and 11 other top leaders who should be included in a prisoner exchange.
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