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June 28, 2022 3:30 pm

Support for PA President Mahmoud Abbas Nosedives as Palestinian Support Shifts to Hamas: New Survey

avatar by Ben Cohen

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at a ceremony for Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who was killed while covering an IDF raid, in Ramallah in the West Bank, May 12, 2022. Photo: Reuters/Mohamad Torokman

A new poll of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip released on Tuesday shows that the Islamist organization Hamas has edged ahead of Fatah, the PLO’s main nationalist faction, in terms of public support, though backing for both groups is in decline.

The survey conducted by the Ramallah-based Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR) revealed that 33 percent of Palestinians believe that Hamas should be leading the Palestinian struggle, with only 23 percent opting for Fatah under its current leader, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who has clung to his post since 2005.

However, a plurality of respondents — 38 percent — said that neither group deserved a leadership role.

“The results of the second quarter of 2022 show a significant change in the domestic balance of power in favor of Hamas and its leadership only three months after Fatah had managed to restore some of the popularity it had lost in the aftermath of the April 2021 cancellation of the legislative and presidential elections, the May 2021 war between Hamas and Israel, and the killing of the opposition figure Nizar Banat at the hands of the Palestinian security services,” the PSR noted in an accompanying analysis.

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Abbas’s personal ratings were dismally low, according to the survey, with 73 percent of respondents registering dissatisfaction with the performance of their 87-year-old leader — a slight improvement on the 80 percent who agreed that he should resign in a PSR survey in Sept. 2021. Additionally, the number of Palestinians who view the PA as a “burden” also rose, to 59 percent from 55 percent in PSR’s last survey three months ago.

If elections were held today, Abbas would win 33 percent of the vote, with 55 percent expressing support for Ismail Haniyeh, his Hamas rival. However, only 49 percent of respondents said they would bother to vote in such a poll. If Abbas decided not to run, 30 percent of Palestinians would opt for the imprisoned Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti, with a further 34 percent declaring themselves undecided.

While the poll also showed a hardening of Palestinian attitudes towards a final peace agreement with Israel, the PSR said was  “worth noting that the percentage of those viewing positively the recent ‘confidence-building’ measures between the PA and Israel has risen to about two-thirds. Moreover, despite the rising tension over al Aqsa Mosque, the majority continues to view the Palestinian-Israeli conflict as a national conflict, over land and sovereignty, rather than a religious conflict.”

The survey revealed that the “vast majority (78 percent) believes the Qur’an contains a prophecy on the demise of the State of Israel, while 17 percent say it does not. However, the majority (63 percent) does not believe the assessment, stated by few Qur’anic scholars, that verses in the Qur’an predict the exact year of the demise of Israel and that it is the year 2022; 25 percent say they believe it.”

Support for a two-state solution to the conflict with Israel has also declined, with 69 percent of respondents declaring themselves opposed. However, the survey indicated a clear divide between Palestinians in the West Bank and those in Gaza over the use of violence. A full 77 percent of residents in Gaza, which is ruled by Hamas, said they viewed attacks on Israelis positively, compared with 46 percent of those in the West Bank.

The survey also probed Palestinian attitudes towards the Russian invasion of Ukraine, with opinion somewhat evenly divided. Asked who was responsible for the war, 42 percent of Palestinians blamed Russia, with 35 percent blaming Ukraine. An overwhelming majority of 75 percent believe the PA should remain neutral in the conflict, with 14 percent urging support for Russia and just six percent for Ukraine.

The PSR poll was carried out between June 22-25, with 1,270 Palestinian adults interviewed face-to-face in 127 randomly selected locations.

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