The Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR) conducted a poll in the areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority and by Hamas, between September 17-19, 2015. The poll, conducted together with the renowned Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, identifies significant currents in the Palestinian-Arab population. Topically grouped into 9 areas of interest, the survey paints a bleak image on the realities.
About two thirds of those polled demand the resignation of Mahmoud Abbas as president of the Palestinian Authority (PA), and an equal number express disbelief in his current resignation from the PLO Executive Committee. While Abbas’ popularity in the area controlled by the PA has dropped significantly, it improved only slightly in the Gaza Strip. Ismail Haniyeh, Abbas’ nominal partner in the unity government and the political leader in Gaza, gained in popularity in the PA controlled part while being slightly less popular in the Gaza Strip. Hamas as an organisation is gaining more support in PA territory while losing in Gaza, but Fatah is losing support across the entire territory, which the Palestinians claim for a future state. From within the Fatah camp, most would favor Marwan Barghouti – the terrorist jailed by Israel for multiple life terms – with Mohammed Dahlan and Saeb Erekat trailing him, to succeed Mahmoud Abbas, should be decide not to run in an upcoming election.On the other hand, within the Hamas camp, there is significant support for both Ismail Haniyeh and Khaled Meshal, who lives in exile in Qatar. The two frontrunners in the so-called independents camp are Rami Hamdallah, the current PA prime minister, and Salam Fayyad, his predecessor.
An interesting finding shows a two-thirds support for indirect talks on a long term ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, that should also end the siege of the Mediterranean enclave, also sealed off by Egypt. The public does not view the PLO or its Executive Committee positively and disputes their mandate to take important decisions on behalf of Palestinian Arabs. Interestingly, the public would rather give such a mandate to the Palestinian Authority, in particular if such decisions relate to permanent settlement with Israel. At the same time, a majority believes that the PA has become a burden on Palestinians and would ask for its dissolution.
The PA is also not seen as protecting the civilian population from attacks from Israeli settlers, which they see as a task for the PA rather than the Israel Defense Forces. From among several options, most have selected the deployment of PA security forces to protect the civilian population, while also expressing support for and willingness to participate in unarmed civil guards groups.
The poll finds a decline in the level of support for the so called “two-state-solution” (TSS). Two thirds reject a return to unconditional negotiations and advocate a demand for a freeze in Israeli settlement construction. These also reject the so called “French proposals” (seen by some people as a re-formulated UN Security Council resolution 242, which had been the mutually accepted basis of any final status talks since 1967), while giving more support to a return to armed struggle in teh form of a third intifada.
To sum up, and to end on a personal note, not only has Mahmoud Abbas not succeeded in gathering support for his purported non-violent approach, but his incitements and radicalisation of the dialogue since the break-down of the Kerry initiative has only led to rejection of a TSS by a majority of Palestinian Arabs and increased popularity of his more radical rivals. Under these premises, Israel has every right to insist that there is no peace partner on the Palestinian side, while cautiously maintaining informal and indirect talks with Abbas’ rivals, such as Dahlan or Fayyad and even some people in Gaza. And while there is not much to be expected of the current US administration, it should at least recognize how – once again – it is backing the wrong horse (Abbas). And that should result in killing off anby inclination to try and meddle in a Middle East it will never understand.