Palestinians split over disarmament of Gaza militia

Palestinians are unsure over the necessity of disarming militias operating in Gaza. Still most of them believe that the Palestinian Authority can maintain law and order in the aftermath of Israel's withdrawal from the territory.

In a survey conducted by the the Nablus-based An-Najah National University's Centre for Opinion Polls and Survey Studies, a total of 1,360 Palestinians - 860 from the West Bank and 500 from Gaza, all above the age of 18 - were asked to complete a questionnaire whose topics included political preferences, security concerns and economic prospects.

Just over half of the respondents (53.2 percent) said they oppose any move by the PA to seize the weapons of the armed factions operating in Gaza. In contrast, 42.5 percent said they favour such disarmament.

Still, a significant majority of those polled (58.7 percent) believe that the PA is capable of of imposing security in Gaza, while 35.7 percent disagree. Two-thirds (66.7 percent) of respondents assess as "good" the PA's handling of the Israeli withdrawal while 22.1 percent say it is "bad".

Palestinian military resistance drove the Israelis out of Gaza according to 58.2 percent of respondents while only 15.5 percent believe that the pullout was the result of PA political action such as the PA's reconciliatory stance in calling a halt to the intifada. However, 61.9 percent of respondents reject launching armed operations against Israeli targets after the pullout.

As for future prospects, only a third (34.6 percent) of those polled believe that the peace process will be reinforced after the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, with 79.7 percent say that the pullout will not be complete while Israel maintains its control over border crossings. Also, only 28.3 percent of respondents are confident in the Quartet (United States, Russia, European Union and United Nations) Committee's ability to impose a political settlement that will be accepted by Israelis and Palestinians.

However, a large majority (71.5 percent) of respondents expect an improvement in the Gaza Strip's economic conditions after the Israeli withdrawal.

Looking ahead at Palestinian legislative elections scheduled for January 25, 2006, some 21.6 percent of respondents said they would vote for Fatah, the factions of PA president Mahmoud Abbas, while 15.1 percent said they would vote for the harldine group Hamas, and another 4.6 percent would spread their votes among Palestinian leftwing parties.

Ideal candidates would be those untainted by corruption according to the vast majority (89.3 percent) of those polled. Educational qualifications (83.9 percent) also scored highly, as qualities would-be lawmakers should have. Other characterists respondents valued were a distinguished history in the Palestinian struggle and being religious (76.4 percent).

While most respondents (60.5 percent) give Abbas credit for attempting to unify the Palestinian security apparatuses, more than half (52.1 percent) believe he has not done enough to fight corruption in public institutions, the AKI reports.

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