A reliable student of Palestinian opinion, Khalil Shikaki, has been stunned by his last poll, conducted under the auspices of the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, which Ethan Bronner characterized in this morning Times as "among the few independent and reliable gauges of Palestinian public opinion." Welcome back to the vicious Middle East, Ethan! Bronner had been a reporter in the region years ago, first, for the Boston Globe and, later, for the NYT, a slightly gullible reporter, if you'll excuse me. Maybe no longer.
So what shocked Shikaki? According to Bronner, the pollster "said he was shocked because the survey, taken last week, showed greater support for violence than any other he had conducted over the past 15 years in the Palestinian areas. Never before, he said, had the majority favored an end to negotiations or the shooting of rockets at Israel." Or, as Shikaki put it himself, "there is real reason to be concerned."
An instance of the pollster's findings: 84 percent of those polled supported the attack on the Mercaz Harav yeshiva in which nine young students were murdered. In the West Bank, Mahmoud Abbas, the ineffective leader of Fatah, has fallen behind Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh in popularity measured by which of them is favored for president of Palestine, if there were to be a Palestine.
Secretary Rice is, of course, desperate about the utter failure of her post-Annapolis project. Helene Cooper reports, also in today's Times, that the "U.S. May Relent on Hamas Role in Talks." So we all move from a conference with folks who want some kind of settlement and but don't have the power to deliver to a conference with folks who have the power to deliver but don't want a settlement.
No wonder Chancellor Merkel and President Szarkozy have put their countries fully behind Israel in its existential struggle for security.