A new poll published yesterday revealed a dramatic increase in support for Hamas following last month's brutal Israeli offensive against the Gaza Strip.
Conducted by the Ramallah-based Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research, the study interviewed 1,200 Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza last week. It found that about 53 per cent believe Hamas is "most deserving of representing and leading the Palestinian people."
The poll also revealed that an overwhelming majority of Palestinians, 77 per cent, believe that Hamas came out as victorious in the 11-day conflict with Israel, with only 1 per cent saying that Israel did. Moreover, nearly 18 per cent said that neither group could be considered a winner; 2 per cent said that both sides won.
"The current findings are not fundamentally different from similar findings we obtained in the past immediately after similar Hamas-Israel confrontations," explained the centre on its website. "Therefore, they might be reflecting a temporary emotional reaction that might revert back to where things stood before the confrontations. The change from emotional to normal attitudes usually takes three to six months, as can be seen in our previous polls."
Meanwhile, support for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's ruling Fatah faction dropped significantly. According to the poll, if a Palestinian presidential election was being held today, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh would get 59 per cent of the votes, with just 27 per cent for Abbas.
"Clearly, in the eyes of the public, Hamas came out as a winner," said Khalil Shikaki, the Director of the centre. He added that it may struggle to maintain such gains as it has little control over events in Jerusalem.
Abbas could, he suggested, regain support, but only if he shows initiative, either by reforming the PA, which is seen as increasingly corrupt and authoritarian, or by taking part in some kind of diplomatic push after a 12-year hiatus in the peace process.
"Unfortunately, so far, we are not seeing Abbas take the initiative," Shikaki concluded. "We don't see him talking to the public, he does not have a strategy and he does not have a plan. He is instead waiting… I don't think that that alone is going to work unless Hamas really fails miserably."