Last week’s wartime survey of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank published by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research contains some interesting findings. The polling shows a dramatic rise in support for Hamas, particularly in the West Bank, and an overwhelming rejection of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
According to the report, 72% of respondents believe Hamas was “correct” to launch its Oct. 7 attack, and a whopping 88% of respondents believe that the PA’s Abbas must resign.
The PSR survey was conducted from Nov. 22 to Dec. 2 (during the temporary pause in the Hamas war) among 1,231 people in the West Bank and Gaza. The poll’s findings — particularly as they relate to support for Hamas and lack of support for Abbas — point to potential problems for the Biden administration’s postwar vision for Gaza and raise questions about Israel’s ability to realize its war goal of eradicating Hamas.
The Biden administration has called for the PA to eventually assume control of Gaza and run both the West Bank and Gaza as a precursor to statehood. Although U.S. officials have said that the PA must be “revitalized,” they haven’t said whether that means replacing the elderly Abbas, who has presided over an administration that is widely seen as corrupt, autocratic and ineffective.
At the same time, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has flatly rejected any role for the PA in Gaza and insists that Israel must retain some level of independent security control in Gaza following the war.
According to the poll, the most popular Palestinian politician is Marwan Barghouti, a prominent figure in Abbas’ Fatah movement who is serving multiple life terms in an Israeli prison for his role in several deadly terror attacks during the Second Intifada. In a two-way presidential race, Ismail Haniyeh, the political leader of Hamas who lives in Qatar, would beat Abbas by a large margin, while in a three-way race Barghouti would come out slightly ahead.
The survey also presented interesting insights about Palestinian views of the Oct. 7 Hamas massacre in southern Israel and the mounting death and destruction in the ensuing war. Despite the devastation — currently estimated to involve more than 18,000 Palestinian deaths, countless injured and most of the Gaza population now homeless and in need of humanitarian aid — 57% of respondents in Gaza and 82% in the West Bank (72% overall) believe Hamas was correct and justified in launching the Oct. 7 attacks.
Moreover, a large majority believe the Hamas’ claim that it acted only to defend the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem against Jewish extremists and win the release of Palestinian prisoners. Only 10% believe Hamas committed war crimes, with most saying they had not seen videos showing terrorists committing atrocities.
Consistent with those views, the survey reports that support for Hamas in the West Bank has risen from 12% in September to 44% and has risen in Gaza from 38% in September to 42%. Support for the PA continues to fall, with nearly 60% saying it should be dissolved.
The dramatic disconnect between the facts as we know them and as they are known in the West Bank and Gaza is troubling. But the resulting increased support among traumatized Palestinians for Hamas and its deadly terror agenda makes us worry.