Top Palestinian Pollster Dr. Khalil Shikaki Speaks to Crown-Belfer Seminar Series
November 3, 2010
Author: Noelle Janka, Former Program Coordinator, Middle East Initiative
Belfer Center Programs or Projects: Middle East Initiative
Dr. Khalil Shikaki, Director of the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR) in Ramallah, spoke on Monday, October 25th, at the third event in the new Crown-Belfer Middle East Seminar Series. The series is a collaboration between Brandeis University's Crown Center for Middle East Studies and the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Harvard Kennedy School. Dr. Shikaki was chosen to speak on Palestinian-Israeli negotiations. He has directed the PSR since 2000, and has conducted more than 150 polls among Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip since 1993.
Dr. Shikaki began his talk by discussing Palestinian concerns regarding current negotiations and the future of the peace process. Since neither negotiations nor violence have achieved peace, the Palestinian people are seeking other options. While reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah is needed in order to unify the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, Dr. Shikaki said, both Fatah and Hamas have other priorities that trump that goal. The search for alternatives, he said, in case negotiations fail or are not resumed, is motivated in part by the desire of the nationalists to avoid reconciliation with Hamas.
In pursuit of other options, Dr. Shikaki outlined four strategies that the Palestinian leadership is pursuing to avoid an outbreak of violence like that which followed the Camp David negotiations in 2000. The strategies include the Arabization of the peace process through the involvement of other Arab countries in the negotiations, internationalization of the process via involvement of the UN Security Council, unilateralism through a possible unilateral declaration of statehood at some point in late 2011, and efforts to deligitimize the occupation. A world-renowned expert on Palestinian public opinion, Dr. Shikaki was careful to outline the inherent weaknesses and flaws of each of these strategies, citing both a lack of general consensus on unilateralism and the larger lack of confidence in the efficacy of international involvement.
Dr. Shikaki also argued that the current situation was the result of several triggers from the Israeli side, citing the election of a right wing government and, in the absence of Palestinian violence, the general lack of Israeli concerns over addressing the Palestinian issue. The seminar participants asked questions regarding the future of two state/one state solutions, the possibility of future violence, and the prospects of a Fatah-Hamas reconciliation. Dr. Shikaki emphasized that another violent flare up in the region is very likely even if it is not imminent.
The dinner event, held at the Harvard Faculty Club, was moderated by Series Co-Chair Shai Feldman, Director of the Crown Center for Middle East Studies at Brandeis, and was attended by more than 30 Boston-based scholars and journalists working on issues related to the Middle East.
For more information about this publication please contact the Crown-Belfer Middle East Seminar Series.
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