By Ze’ev Ben-Yechiel
Tazpit News Agency
Support for Hamas has surged among Arabs in the West Bank and Gaza following Operation Defensive Edge, according to the results of a survey published on Tuesday. The Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PCPSR) found that 61% of those polled would choose Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh over Mahmoud Abbas. Only 32 percent said they would vote for the PA leader.
The poll of 1,270 Arabs in Judea, Samaria and Gaza began on August 26, the last day of this summer’s war, and continued over the next four days. It shows an increase in support for the terror group over the course of the war.
Some 79 percent surveyed in this poll said they believe that Hamas won the Gaza war, and it may have been this perception that led 72 percent of respondents to say that they support Hamas’s approach of violent resistance and would like to see it implemented in the West Bank. “Indeed, an overwhelming majority of West Bankers wants to transfer ‘Hamas’ way’ to the West Bank and rejects the demand to disarm the Islamist group or to disband the other Gazan armed groups,” read the report from the PCPSR.
The group also reported that for the first time in eight years, more people voiced support for Haniyeh than for Marwan Barghouti, the arch-terrorist currently serving 67 consecutive life sentences in Israeli prison and for years the most consistently popular political figure among Arabs in Judea and Samaria.
An overwhelming majority of 86 percent of respondents said they support the renewal of rocket attacks on Israel if Hamas’s demands are not met. Of those polled, roughly 40 percent were residents of the Gaza Strip and 60 percent were from Judea and Samaria, PCPSR told Tazpit News Agency.
Of all respondents, 54 percent said that they supported the murder of the three kidnapped Israeli teens, while 42 percent opposed it. Among Gazans, 69 percent said they supported the killings, while only 42 percent of Judea and Samaria residents were in favor and 52 percent against the murders.
The conclusions of the poll noted that “if presidential elections were to take place today, Ismail Haniyeh would easily win over Abbas and Hamas would win the largest percentage of the popular vote in parliamentary elections.” The study also found that “the overwhelming majority of the public views Hamas as the winner and Israel as the loser in this war,” and that a “majority views Hamas’ approach of armed confrontation with Israel as the most effective means” of dealing with Israel.
Professor Mordechai Kedar, a scholar of Arabic literature and lecturer at Bar-Ilan University, believes that support for Hamas is much higher in Judea and Samaria than in Gaza. “The West Bank doesn’t suffer from Hamas,” he told Tazpit, so they have the luxury of supporting the group. On the other hand, he added, they do suffer from the current PA administration.
Kedar pointed out the unreliability of surveys conducted in the Arab world, where people often live in fear of dictatorial governments and respond to such polls according to what they think the government wants them to say.
In the case of this poll, however, he said that the Arabs in Judea and Samaria do not feel a similar fear towards the PA and are relatively forthright in voicing their criticisms, because they perceive the PA as an “illegitimate puppet government with no effective power or any potential to be their benefactors.” He added that Abbas and his sons are perceived as extremely corrupt, further weakening their prestige among the local population.