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In Poll of Palestinians, Majority Support Hamas, Armed Conflict
Palestinians in Gaza marching with their national flag on June 15, 2021. (Mahmoud Issa/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

In Poll of Palestinians, Majority Support Hamas, Armed Conflict

The sharp rise in Hamas’ popularity would likely give it a good showing if canceled elections were held soon, expert says

The Islamist Hamas movement ruling Gaza has seen its popularity soar after the 11 days of deadly fighting last month with Israel, according to a new survey of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. Hamas is viewed by a large majority of Palestinians as the victorious side in the latest round of violence.

Some 77% of those surveyed by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research said that they believe that Hamas won the recent cross-border conflict with Israel and 65% said they believe the confrontation stopped the expulsion of several Palestinian families from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in east Jerusalem. In addition, 94% of respondents said that they were “proud” of Gaza’s performance during the conflict.

The sharp rise in Hamas’ popularity would almost guarantee it a great showing if elections were to be held soon, says Ahmad Rafiq Awad, president of the Center for Jerusalem Studies at Al-Quds University.

He told The Media Line that Hamas was expected to have a decent showing in the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) elections that were scheduled for last month before Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas canceled them.

These numbers show the trouble that Abbas is in; he hasn’t accomplished much since taking office and people want to see results on the ground

At the time Abbas said he was delaying the elections because of Israel’s refusal to allow Palestinians in east Jerusalem to vote in physical polling stations, but many argue that the PA president saw the writing on the wall and was told his fragmented Fatah party was going to have a poor showing at the ballot box.

“There was no doubt that Fatah, which had three independent lists competing in the parliamentary election, was going to lose; Abbas had no choice but to cancel the elections,” Hasan Awwad, an expert on Palestinian affairs at the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut, told The Media Line.

The survey results also showed “a dramatic increase” in the level of support for the return to an armed conflict against Israel and an intifada, with the support of some 60% of Palestinian adults surveyed. In addition, support for a one-state solution to the Palestinian-Israel conflict dropped from one-third to one-fifth in three months, likely due to the unrest between Arab and Jewish citizens of Israel, according to the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research survey of 1,200 adults interviewed face to face in 120 randomly selected locations in the West Bank and Gaza on June 9-12. The margin of error is +/-3%.

The results also showed a spike in support for Hamas’ leader Ismail Haniyeh, putting him ahead of Abbas in polls asking about a head-to-head competition for the PA presidency.

The survey was taken several weeks after Abbas, who is serving the 16th year of a four-year term as president, canceled Palestinian legislative and presidential elections, since Israel has not authorized the participation of east Jerusalem Palestinians.

“These numbers show the trouble that Abbas is in; he hasn’t accomplished much since taking office and people want to see results on the ground,” Awwad said.

This great support being shown to Hamas comes because people recognize that it stood up to Israel and defended the Palestinians. “The Palestinian people saw what Hamas did as a powerful reaction to the provocative behavior by the occupation,” he said.

Awwad says Hamas’ action happened in the absence of PA rhetoric supporting Palestinians in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood or in Gaza during the short-lived conflict, giving the perception that the PA leadership doesn’t care.

But Al-Quds’ Awad says other factors contributed to the dip in Abbas’ popularity.

“There are several reasons, among them: the rampant corruption, his policy against the judicial system, security coordination [with Israel], tightening grip on power and canceling the elections,” he said.

Haniyeh, the Hamas political chief, is currently on a visit to Morocco, where he met with Prime Minister Saad-Eddine El Othmani and officials from the ruling Justice and Development Party (PJD).

Haniyeh accepted an invitation to visit the North African Arab country, which normalized relations with Israel last year.

“I hope that this visit will lead to getting the desired and expected results from the brotherly country Morocco,” Haniyeh said Wednesday during a meeting with the Moroccan prime minister.

While Haniyeh is on a trip to Morocco and other countries, Abbas is sitting in Ramallah watching Hamas slowly but surely becoming the face of the Palestinians

He spoke about the recent clashes with Israel, saying that Hamas emerged triumphant from the confrontation.

“While Haniyeh is on a trip to Morocco and other countries, Abbas is sitting in Ramallah watching Hamas slowly but surely becoming the face of the Palestinians,” Awwad said.

The emergence of Hamas regionally and internationally, Awwad says, can be attributed to the PA’s lackluster performance. The lack of progress in negotiations with Israel, and Abbas’ inability to produce any tangible results for the Palestinians has made his rival Hamas appear to be the better alternative.

“Hamas will eventually receive international acceptance; politics does not like the weak,” Awwad added.

During 16 years in power, Abbas has not been able to bring the Palestinians closer to statehood, while talks with Israel were broken off in April 2014 and have never resumed.

“Hamas will take over the helm instead of Abu Mazen soon,” Awwad said, using Abbas’ nom de guerre.

“The international context is dynamic and rapidly changing, and the one who is most able to understand and exploit these variables will have a role in the next stage,” Awwad concluded.

 

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