Palestinian support for two-state solution suffers a sharp fall


SUPPORT FOR a two-state solution to the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is falling steeply among Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza.

According to a poll released yesterday by the Jerusalem Media and Communications Centre, almost 34 per cent of Palestinians now back a binational state shared by Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs compared with only 20.6 per cent in June 2009.

In 2001 – at the outset of the second intifada – the figure in favour was 18.3 per cent, and it increased only slightly until 2009.

While 43.9 per cent still favour the two-state solution that would create a Palestinian state alongside Israel, just over 30 per cent believe the peace process is dead and argue that negotiations between the Palestinian Authority and Israel will not resume.

An additional 46.2 per cent believe the peace process is in great difficulty and the outcome is uncertain. Just 18.4 per cent believe the peace process is “alive and well”.

While the rise in support for the binational state reflects deepening Palestinian disillusionment with the status quo and bitter disappointment with stasis in a peace process designed to deliver a Palestinian state, Palestinians remain optimistic. Sixty-eight per cent are hopeful about the future, compared with 63 per cent last October.

More than half will vote in local elections scheduled for June. Support for candidates from the Fatah movement, which administers Palestinian enclaves in the West Bank, stands at 60 per cent, whether or not Hamas, which rules Gaza, takes part.

Meanwhile, al-Quds al-Arabi,a Palestinian daily based in London, reported that Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas (75) has major health problems.

He is said to have been treated in a Jordanian private hospital a number of times in the past three months and to have been admitted on six occasions in recent weeks.

His health became a public concern last month when he was hospitalised after he slipped and fell in his hotel room in Amman.

Although secrecy veils his ailments, there is speculation that he is suffering from an infection, high blood pressure, exhaustion or heart problems.

Fatah central committee member Azzam al-Ahmad dismissed such speculation, but confirmed that Mr Abbas had been told by doctors to rest for a few weeks.

Since last year the current caretaker Palestinian prime minister, Salam Fayyad (58), an independent who established the Third Way faction with legislator Hanan Ashrawi, has emerged as a possible successor to Mr Abbas.

Mr Abbas has indicated that he might not seek a second term if and when a presidential election, postponed from January 2009, is held.

A smooth transition to Mr Fayyad would eliminate a damaging power struggle within Fatah. A successful finance minister, Mr Fayyad was appointed emergency prime minister in 2007 after Hamas seized control of Gaza from Fatah. He has been credited with organising the Palestinian Authority’s finances and curbing corruption.

He has also called for the proclamation of a Palestinian state by August 2011.

With the aim of cultivating a populist image, Mr Fayyad has been taking part in Palestinian demonstrations against Israel’s West Bank wall and settlements.