A recent poll carried out by the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research has seen Palestinians reject the current political developments. A majority of respondents rejected the PA’s measure of cutting public sector employees’ salaries and power-sharing between Hamas and Mohammad Dahlan. The divide between the political statements offered as explanation by the PA and Hamas, and the people’s perception of the current crisis is indicative of a massive rift that can further fragment Palestinian society.
The poll’s focus, which was summarised under ten separate headings, deal mainly with Palestinians’ perceptions of Palestine’s future and how this is being shaped by the PA and Hamas. Despite the PA’s purported justifications regarding plunging Gaza into darkness, 84 per cent of Palestinians are opposed to Mahmoud Abbas’ decision and 88 per cent have also expressed disapproval about the cuts in salaries.
Support for an agreement between Hamas and Dahlan stands at 61 per cent in Gaza, yet 50 per cent of respondents expressed concern that “a joint administration, if true, would lead to the total separation between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.” The issue of fragmentation also resonated with regard to the PA’s decision to stop payments for Gaza’s electricity – 78 per cent believed the decision would exacerbate the division. PA decisions to suspend the payments of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails are also abhorred: 91 per cent of respondents expressed opposition to the decision. On the subject of Palestinian prisoners, the collective hunger strike has also confirmed the leadership preference of Marwan Barghouthi, which stands at 69 per cent.
Dissatisfaction with Mahmoud Abbas was recorded to be 34 per cent. A possibility of new elections has also seen Barghouthi at the helm with 35 per cent, followed by Ismail Haniyeh and Mohammed Dahlan at 19 per cent and seven per cent respectively. Only one per cent of respondents expressed preference for Saeb Erekat. The question posed to respondents was situated within a context in which Abbas would not be contesting the election. Yet, in another question that required respondents to give their voting preference for presidential elections between three candidates, Marwan Barghouthi led by 41 per cent, followed by Haniyeh with 32 per cent and Abbas at 22 per cent.
Support for armed resistance when compared to three months ago has dropped to 39 per cent from the previous 51 per cent. The current trend shows Palestinian willingness to join international institutions at 74 per cent.
The shifts are indicative of changing priorities in Palestine. While it does not mean that anti-colonial struggle has been abandoned, the respondents have prioritised addressing the current circumstances as well as the authority which perpetuated the humanitarian disaster in Gaza, in concordance with Israel. Palestinians are also seeking political alternatives –Barghouthi’s increasing popularity shows there is less adherence to the politics of the two rival parties. However, this means that both the PA and Hamas are shaping the possibility of alternatives in people’s minds, with limitations on opportunities for political change risking the continuation of cycles that will restrict Palestinians to addressing issues as individual violations, rather than as a result of colonial oppression and its ramifications.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.