Last updated: 2 April, 2013

Palestinians pessimistic on peace after Obama visit

A majority of Palestinians believe the US will fail to revive the Middle East peace process, according to a survey after Barack Obama’s visit to the region, seen by AFP on Tuesday.

The Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research’s report, conducted March 28-30, surveyed 1,270 people in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

“Fifty-five percent believe that the US administration will not succeed in reviving the peace process and bringing the two sides to the negotiating table,” it concluded.

“Moreover, 70 percent believe that the American administration will not succeed in pressuring Israel to freeze settlement construction,” it added, in a reference to Palestinian demands for a cessation of Jewish settlement building before any talks can be held.

On his first visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories as president in March, Obama met leaders of both sides, and follow-up meetings with Secretary of State John Kerry signalled clear intentions to reboost the stalled peace process.

But Israel’s newly-installed government includes a number of ministers likely to strongly oppose any settlement freeze in territories occupied by Israel after the 1967 Israeli-Arab war, and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas made it clear to Obama there would be no talks without a new building moratorium.

“Fifty-six percent believe that the two-state solution is no longer practical due to settlement expansion,” the report said.

Meanwhile, 71 percent of Palestinians were pessimistic about Washington’s move to unblock $500 million in aid to Abbas’s Palestinian Authority, saying it was not enough to address its current financial woes.

And the report also found a dramatic drop in the number of people optimistic that Gaza’s Hamas rulers could reconcile their differences with Abbas’s rival Fatah movement.

“Percentage of optimism about the chances for reunification of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip drops sharply from 39 percent three months ago to 18 percent in this poll,” it said.

Fatah and Hamas have been at odds since the Islamist movement won a landslide general election victory in 2006, and relations took a major turn for the worse after they ousted Fatah forces from Gaza a year later.