Pew Polls in the Middle East: Abbas, Fayyad and Netanyahu

[tweetmeme] The Pew Global Attitude Project just released a new report of the attitudes towards Middle East leaders.  Some results were expected – King Abdullah is popular and President Ahmadinejad is not – and some were unexpected – Turkey doesn’t really like anyone, but the poll is most telling for the Palestinian and Lebanese leaders.

A lot is made about the domestic political obstacles for both Israel and Palestine.  For Palestine, there is the massive hurdle of political division between Hamas and Fatah (a break that has shown signs of ending) as well as the declining popularity of the PLO’s leaders.  Salam Fayyad and Mahmoud Abbas have proved themselves to be highly unpopular in Palestine while Israeli PM Netanyahu has seen his popularity dip in Israel as well.

The Majlis highlighted the fact that Abbas was considered fairly popular – outside of Lebanon.  The poll said 52% of Palestinians held a favorable view of Abu Mazen – of course, this was in May and June of last year.  This number greatly differs from the 12.1% he received in a Jerusalem Media and Communications poll in October.  Pew’s numbers are closer to the International Peace Institute’s poll numbers from November.  The way in which Abbas handled the Goldstone Report had many Palestinians labeling him a ‘traitor’ and a ‘collaborator.’  Abbas recently made comments supporting Egypt’s right to build a steel wall completely blockading Gaza that have further hurt his credibility among Palestinians.

Similarly, the PM Salam Fayyad has seen his numbers drop as well.  Fayyad, the Majlis notes, hurt his credibility in Palestine by attending and speaking at the Israeli conference at Herzliyeh.  Fayyad delivered his same message (build institutions, prepare for statehood and end the occupation), but sat next to Israeli DM Ehud Barak and was complemented by President Peres.  Despite being well-respected in the West and Israel and having a very comprehensive  plan to build Palestinian institutions, Fayyad was blasted for his participation in the conference.  From the Majlis:

  • Hatem Abdel Qader, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council (and a Fatah member), said his entire party was outraged (عربي) at Fayyad’s “participation… in a conference organized by the Israeli security establishment.”
  • Nabil Shaath — who this week became the first Fatah official to visit the Gaza Strip since August, and the first high-level visitor since 2007 — was more muted in his criticism, but said he disagreed with Fayyad.
  • A spokesman for Hamas slammed Fayyad for “cooperating” with the occupation.
  • Mohamed al-Hindi, a senior member of Islamic Jihad, called Fayyad “politically mutinous.”
  • The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine called the speech an offense against the Palestinian people (عربي), because the conference leads to “policies of aggression against our people and our nation.”
  • Fayyad seems to be the best hope for a Palestinian state, but, unfortunately, he does not seem to be able to gather enough popular support to effectively lead.

    On the other side of the peace process, Laura Rozen gives a poll showing a decline in popularity of Israeli PM Netanyahu.  Interestingly, the decline in popularity for Netanyahu is due to the same reason as Abbas and Fayyad: disappointment from Palestinians and Israelis over perceived sacrifices for peace.  Palestinians are angry that Fayyad and Abbas are working with Israel and Israelis seem upset over the 10 month moratorium on settlement construction.

    For peace to be made, it seems as though the populations of Israel and Palestine must be more open to concessions by their leaders.  Unfortunately, both populations perceive their side as making too many concessions, further demonstrating the difference in realities between Israel and Palestine.  Although Netanyahu remains popular, despite the dip in numbers, the Palestinian leaders are polling desperately low numbers.

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