A Humiliating Blow to President Abbas

Amira Hass
Amira Hass
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President Mahmoud Abbas gestures during a meeting with the Palestinian leadership to discuss the United Arab Emirates' deal with Israel to normalize relations, in Ramallah, 2018
Amira Hass
Amira Hass

Palestinian approval for President Mahmoud Abbas has plummeted to a new low, according to a Palestinian survey published last week. Unsurprisingly, approval for Hamas has soared, to the point that 56 percent of respondents believe that this Islamic movement is “most deserving of representing and leading the Palestinian people,” compared to 14 percent who say the same about the Fatah movement led by Abbas.

If we want to understand the meaning of humiliation, we should read this survey by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, which was conducted from June 9 to June 12, and included 1,200 adults from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

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When Hamas garners such high grades, that only means that many of those polled would consider an armed struggle as a way to improve the Palestinian situation. In response to the question of what means should be used for ending the Israeli occupation, 49 percent chose “an armed struggle,” 27 percent chose negotiations and only 18 percent chose popular resistance.

Regarding the most recent round of war in Gaza, 77 percent of the respondents answered that Hamas won and Israel was defeated. No fewer than 65 percent are convinced that the Hamas rockets forced Israel to stop the eviction of Palestinian families from the Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah.

The majority may be wrong, but the survey is about impressions rather than truths. We have already raised the assumption here that Hamas’ militarization tactic was designed to advance its status as the leader of the Palestinian people. If the assumption is correct, then the results of the survey prove that the Islamic resistance movement has acute political instincts when it comes to understanding its frustrated people, who are tired of empty promises and defeats.

The respondents were asked to assess the performances of 10 local and regional players during the confrontations in Jerusalem and Sheikh Jarrah, and the war between Israel and Hamas, last May. In first place are the Jerusalem Palestinians and its young people: 89 percent described their conduct as outstanding. Another 86 percent gave this grade to the Palestinian citizens of Israel and 75 percent to Hamas.

Far behind are the Egyptians, Turkey and Jordan, each of which received the highest ranking from about a fifth of those surveyed; 18 percent gave Iran an “outstanding” rating. At the bottom of the ladder are the Fatah movement and the Palestinian Authority, rated “outstanding” by 13 percent and 11 percent respectively. And at the very bottom of the scale is the head of the PA, the Palestine Liberation Organization and Fatah: Only 8 percent called Abbas’ performance “outstanding.”

We have often mentioned here the assumption that Israel is interested in a strong Hamas government and the isolation of Gaza as a disjointed enclave that operates separately, in order to perpetuate the intra-Palestinian rift.

The other side of the coin: The promises of the Fatah movement, to the effect that negotiations will lead to an end of the occupation and the formation of a state, and in the interim to economic and individual stability, have been ground into dust. The credit goes to Israeli policy, which has accelerated its real estate orgy, at the expense of Palestinian land, since the Oslo Accords.

The Israeli deception does not drive the respondents to evince sympathy for Fatah, apparently because this movement and its leader have failed on matters unrelated to the occupation: democracy, corruption, repairing past mistakes. About two-thirds of these surveyed are convinced that Abbas called off the election for the Palestine Legislative Council due to fear of their outcome; 84 percent believe that corruption is rife in PA institutions, compared to 57 percent who said the same for public institutions controlled by Hamas.

And then came the question about the desire to emigrate due to the political, economic and security-related conditions. Some 42 percent of Gaza residents said yes, as did 15 percent of West Bank residents. About two months before the recent war, 40 percent and 23 percent, respectively, expressed a desire to emigrate. Despite the mass disgust with Abbas and the admiration for Hamas and its armed struggle, it turns out that there are more people who are unable to tolerate life in the Gaza Strip.

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