For the first time since 2006, more West Bank Palestinians support the political approach of Hamas as opposed to that of Fatah and its leader, Mahmoud Abbas, a new poll shows. And an overwhelming majority of Palestinians believe the results of the latest Hamas-Israel escalation that included Operation Pillar of Defense — Israel’s eight-day operation against terror targets in Gaza last month — prove that the armed struggle represents the best path to Palestinian independence.

The poll, conducted earlier this month by the Arab World Research and Development (AWRAD), a Ramallah-based research center, sampled 1,200 Palestinians from both Gaza and the West Bank. It set out to examine political opinions among Palestinians following Operation Pillar of Defense in Gaza and Mahmoud Abbas’s successful UN nonmember statehood bid.

While both events are overwhelmingly viewed as positive by Palestinians, adding popularity to both Palestinian factions, 42% of West Bank respondents said they preferred the approach of Hamas to that of Fatah, as opposed to only 28% who preferred Fatah’s approach.

Interestingly, more Gazans, 40%, said they preferred Fatah’s approach to that of Hamas, which rules over them. Thirty-seven percent of Gazans said Hamas’s approach was better.

While Abbas tends to favor a two-state solution reached by negotiations, Hamas — recognized internationally as a terrorist group — refuses to recognize Israel and vows eternal Jihad against the Jewish “infidels” who reside here.

An overwhelming 88% of the entire sample believed that the result of Operation Pillar of Defense proved that armed struggle is the best means of achieving Palestinian independence.

Another trend revealed by the poll is a sharp decline in support for negotiations with Israel among West Bank residents.

In May 2011, 59% of West Bank residents supported an immediate return to negotiations with Israel. That number dropped to 52% in May 2012, but declined sharply to 43% in the most recent poll. Meanwhile, support for negotiations remained largely stable in the Gaza Strip at around 50%.

Hillel Frisch, an expert on Palestinian politics at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar Ilan University, said he was not surprised with the results of the poll, given Hamas’s perceived victory in Operation Pillar of Defense and Israel’s recent decision to withhold tax money collected on behalf of the PA.

“Palestinians are becoming more frustrated and losing hope in negotiations,” Frisch told The Times of Israel. “They may turn to Hamas not because it’s Hamas, but because it’s the movement that opposes negotiations with Israel.”

For the first time since 2006, the Palestinian Authority allowed pro-Hamas demonstrations to take place last week across the West Bank in celebration of the movement’s 25th anniversary.