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Wartime Palestinian poll shows surge in Hamas support, about 90% want Abbas to resign

Dec. 13: A wartime opinion poll among Palestinians published Wednesday shows a rise in support for Hamas, even in the devastated Gaza Strip, and an overwhelming rejection of Western-backed President Mahmoud Abbas, with nearly 90% saying he must resign, reports Karin Laub of Associated Press.

According to the AP report, the findings by a Palestinian pollster signal more difficulties ahead for the Biden administration’s postwar vision for Gaza and raise questions about Israel’s stated goal of ending Hamas’ military and governing capabilities.

Washington has called for the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority, currently led by Abbas, to eventually assume control of Gaza and run both territories as a precursor to statehood. U.S. officials have said the PA must be revitalized, without letting on whether this would mean leadership changes.

The PA administers pockets of the Israeli-occupied West Bank and has governed Gaza until a takeover by Hamas in 2007. The Palestinians have not held elections since 2006 when Hamas won a parliamentary majority.

The report maintains that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who leads the most right-wing government in Israel’s history, has soundly rejected any role for the PA in Gaza and insists Israel must retain open-ended security control there. Arab allies of the U.S. have said they’ll only get involved in post-war reconstruction if there’s a credible push toward a two-state solution, which is unlikely under Netanyahu’s government, dominated by opponents of Palestinian statehood.

With survey results indicating a further erosion of the PA’s legitimacy, at a time when there’s no apparent path toward restarting credible negotiations on Palestinian statehood, the default for postwar Gaza is an open-ended Israeli occupation, said pollster Khalil Shikaki.

“Israel is stuck in Gaza,” the report cited Shikaki as saying ahead of the publication of the survey’s results by his Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research. The survey was conducted among 1,231 people in the West Bank and Gaza from Nov. 22-Dec. 2, with an error margin of 4 percentage points. In Gaza, poll workers conducted interviews during a weeklong ceasefire that ended on December 1.

The survey provided insights about Palestinian views of the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas. Israel’s subsequent war on Hamas has killed more than 18,400 Palestinians, about two-thirds of them women and children, in a sustained bombing campaign and ground offensive in Gaza, now in its third month.

Despite the devastation, 57% of respondents in Gaza and 82% in the West Bank believe Hamas was correct in launching the attack, the poll indicated. A large majority believed Hamas’ claims that it acted to defend a major Islamic shrine in Jerusalem against Jewish extremists and win the release of Palestinian prisoners. Only 10% said they believed Hamas has committed war crimes, with a large majority saying they did not see videos showing the Hamas fighters committing atrocities.

Overall, 88% want Abbas to resign, up by 10 percentage points from three months ago. In the West Bank, 92% called for the resignation of the octogenarian who has presided over an administration widely seen as corrupt, autocratic and ineffective.

At the same time, 44% in the West Bank said they supported Hamas, up from just 12% in September. In Gaza, Hamas enjoyed 42% support, up from 38% three months ago.

Shikaki said support for the PA declined further, with nearly 60% now saying it should be dissolved.

The poll also signaled widespread frustration with the international community, particularly the United States, key European countries and even the United Nations, which has pushed for an immediate humanitarian cease-fire.

“The level of anti-Americanism and anti-Westernism is huge among Palestinians because of the positions they have taken regarding international humanitarian law and what is happening in Gaza,” Shikaki said.


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