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A few leading Hamas figures have opened Facebook pages over the past few weeks, as part of the organization's broader attempt to win hearts and minds among the Palestinian public to reverse its declining support in both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

According to an opinion poll published Wednesday by the Jerusalem Media and Communications Center, 39.2 percent of West Bank and Gaza Palestinians have faith in Fatah, while only 16.6 percent put their trust in Hamas.

Hamas is now trying to rebrand itself as a more open and, above all, a more moderate movement. The strategy is rooted in part in the organization's fear of a rout in next year's expected parliamentary and presidential elections, and is being expressed in the softer tack being taken by certain senior officials.

Senior Hamas leader Khaled Meshal, for instance, said during the reconciliation process with Fatah that Hamas was willing to give negotiations with Israel another chance. But that drew fire from some of his colleagues, demonstrating that not everyone is on board.

The Associated Press reported yesterday that the organization "is weighing a new strategy of not directly participating in future governments even if it wins elections - an approach aimed at avoiding isolation by the world community and allowing for continued economic aid."

Hamas officials told the AP this idea has gained favor recently in closed meetings of the movement's leadership in the West Bank, Gaza, Egypt and Syria, and that it helped enable last month's reconciliation agreement with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party.

"Hamas found that being in government caused huge damage to the movement, and therefore it has changed its policy," said a top participant in the Hamas talks, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the extreme sensitivity of the issue.

"Hamas is reevaluating its choices and resetting its priorities," added Yehya Mussa, a prominent Hamas lawmaker who is one of the organization's new Facebook members. "Being in government was a burden on Hamas, a burden on Hamas' image, a burden on its resistance enterprise."