Solid majority of Palestinians favor truce
The Associated Press

JERUSALEM — A solid majority of Palestinians favors the truce called by the main Palestinian groups, halting attacks against Israel, according to a poll published Wednesday.

The poll also showed that Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas gets a favorable job rating from his people, though economic hardships continue unabated.

Hamas and the other violent Islamic group, Islamic Jihad, declared a unilateral three-month halt to attacks against Israelis on June 29. Fatah, headed by Yasser Arafat and Abbas, called a six-month truce. The poll showed that 74 percent support the truce and 61 percent favor extending it for another three months.

Support for the truce was slightly higher in the Gaza Strip than the West Bank – 66 percent to 59 percent. Gaza has felt more benefits from the reduction in violence. Shortly after the truce was declared, Israel turned security in Gaza over to the Palestinians, removing most roadblocks and allowing freedom of movement.

In the West Bank, however, dozens of Israeli army roadblocks continue to stifle daily life. Israel maintains that the checkpoints are necessary for security.

The poll was conducted by Bir Zeit University in the West Bank, in cooperation with the Washington-based International Republican Institute. It questioned 1,200 Palestinians in 75 communities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and quoted a margin of error of 3 percentage points.

The poll showed that 27 percent of the people rate Abbas’ performance as good and 34 percent as fair, compared to 28 percent who found him weak.

The total of 61 percent giving Abbas a favorable rating contrasted with earlier polls, which showed him with little support compared to Arafat. However, those polls were based on popularity, not performance.

The poll also reflected the severe economic hardships faced by Palestinians as a result of nearly three years of violence. In a finding unchanged since May, 41 percent of households reported no working breadwinner. Also, 38 percent described their economic situation as bad or very bad.

In another finding, the poll results indicated that if elections were held now, the Islamic movements would draw about the same support as Fatah, reflecting the steadily growing power of Hamas and Islamic Jihad over the past decade. Before, Fatah was the practically unrivaled political leader of the Palestinians.

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