Sept. 18, 2019
Analyzing the results of a recent survey of Palestinian public opinion, David Pollock notes the important cleavages it points to between those under age thirty and those older—as well as the similarities:
[Y]ounger Palestinians have somewhat more moderate views than their elders on various current issues—though not on long-term ones. Respondents ages eighteen to thirty expressed a marginally greater interest in economic progress, internal political breakthroughs, personal contacts with Israelis, the Trump peace plan, and similar matters. Yet only around one-third of them said they favor permanent peace with Israel—about the same minority percentage as respondents over thirty. So the data give no grounds to imagine that a generational shift or the mere passage of time alone will improve the prospects for Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation at the grassroots level.
One generational difference stood out with particular clarity: younger West Bank respondents were significantly more likely to say their government should stop paying bonuses to prisoners in Israeli jails. A surprisingly high 49 percent agreed with that supposedly very controversial position, compared with just 35 percent among the older generation. And this is not because the younger generation is more informed about the policy’s economic costs—in fact, just 40 percent of younger respondents (versus 51 percent of their elders) said they had heard much about the Taylor Force Act, the 2018 U.S. law that cut aid to the Palestinian Authority because of bonuses paid to terrorists.
If Washington were to emphasize Palestinian political reform, economic opportunity, dialogue with Israelis and other Arabs, and even an end to terrorist subsidies, it would find significantly more resonance among the younger generation than is often supposed. Over time, this might yield some pressure on local politicians to soften their opposition to all of those worthy objectives.
But in the longer term, majority popular opposition to permanent peace with Israel, even among younger respondents, suggests that real reconciliation remains a distant dream. [A] compromise deal based mostly on goodwill is not a realistic option anytime soon, for either the United States or any of its regional partners.