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public opinion: ‘[T]he social and public meaning of their activity is no less important than
its religious legitimacy’ (Bloom 2005, p 32). Further, other studies have revealed that the
existence of a democratic popular political culture in many Arab states among the (mostly)
religious Arab masses also forms the setting in which, for instance, Islamists have to act
(Goddard 2002; Tessler 2002; Inglehart 2004). Hence, the Islamist are also influenced by
the democratic culture and discourse, and also creating a more democratic discourse
among themselves. There is a need to understand the interplay between the leadership
level and the public in peace building efforts (see Lederach 1997). This underlines the need
to study public opinion about peace and security issues in the Palestinian context.
The surprising conclusion from various studies is that when conflict parties are engaged
in talks, ‘contrary to common expectations, combatants do not have the greatest difficulty
resolving underlying conflicts of interest and reaching bargains’ (Walter 2002:5). However,
up to two-thirds of all agreements ultimately fail to become implemented. Taking the Oslo
process as an example, the negotiators could have reached a political agreement relatively
easily (Oslo Accords from September 1993). From the beginning of negotiations, the Israeli
and Palestinian negotiators were largely in agreement about the basic principles for dealing
with the conflict issues upon which the ultimate agreement was built. However, difficulties
emerged over the timing of implementation.13 The Gaza-Jericho Agreement was signed
in May 1994, six months later than originally scheduled. The implementation of some parts
of the Oslo II Agreement that was signed in September 1994 was also delayed. Further
delays in the implementation of the schedules followed the defeat of the Labor government
in the May 1996 Israeli elections. Also, continued violent resistance from the anti-Oslo
proponents (Israeli settlers, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and others), and public pressure, gradually
worsened and influenced the political will and ability to implement the agreements.
Hence, when the Camp David II negotiations came to a close in July 2000, public disappointment
with the failure of the summit negatively impacted on the peace process. This
occurred notwithstanding that Camp David II was the first time that the key conflict issues
were negotiated at a top-level summit. Hence, public expectations that the summit would
come up with a final agreement was high, but due to the complexity of the issues, in combination
with poor preparations of the negotiation teams, rather unrealistic expectations.
At the follow-up summit in Taba, during 2001, the parties came even closer to an historical
compromise; however, all parties realized that they lacked the necessary public support or
mandate to push for agreement (Meitel 2006). Israeli Prime Minister Barak had recently
lost his parliamentary majority and was facing a struggle against the Likud right wing chal-
13 Much has been written about the negotiations that lead to the Oslo Accords. One of the best analyses is
written by Jones, 1999.

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