New poll finds Palestinians deeply distrust their leaders

87% of survey respondents want PA to hold elections for first time since 2005; only 11% say they trust Abbas, 6% Hamas chief Haniyeh

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (left) and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh (Flash90, Said Khatib/AFP)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (left) and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh (Flash90, Said Khatib/AFP)

A new public opinion survey showed the overwhelming majority of Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip are disillusioned with their leaders and desperate for presidential elections.

The poll, conducted by the Jerusalem Media and Communication Center and released Tuesday, showed that only 11 percent of Palestinians trust Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, the leader of Fatah, and 6% trust rival Hamas leader Ismael Haniyeh.

Around 48% said they don’t trust any political figure, and 87% are demanding elections.

Abbas’s 14-year rule has been marked by corruption and deepening Palestinian division.

The survey, which had a margin of error of 3%, was based on the responses of 1,200 people.

The Palestinian Authority hasn’t held elections since 2006 due to a bitter split between the West Bank’s governing Fatah movement and the Gaza-ruling Hamas terror group, which violently ejected PA forces from the Strip in 2007.

The two sides have engaged in a number of failed reconciliation efforts, the most recent of which was an Egyptian-brokered agreement signed in October 2017.

That deal was supposed to include the resumption of PA civilian control of Gaza and talks on forming a unity government, though such a government never materialized.

Fatah’s Azzam al-Ahmad, right, and Saleh al-Arouri of Hamas shake hands after signing a reconciliation deal in Cairo, on October 12, 2017, as the two rival Palestinian movements ended their decade-long split following negotiations overseen by Egypt. (AFP/Khaled Desouki)

In February, Abbas said that the Palestinian Authority hoped all relevant parties would cooperate in order to hold parliamentary elections in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem.

Since a PA court in December called on Abbas to announce new elections for the Palestinian legislature, the aging Palestinian leader has pledged on more than one occasion to do so.

Hassan Yousef, a Hamas leader in the West Bank, said in February that while the group generally supports holding elections, it maintains that the Palestinians should simultaneously hold a vote for the legislature, presidency and the Palestine Liberation Organization’s largest body, the Palestinian National Council.

Yousef, who also is a Hamas co-founder, told The Times of Israel: “We also believe participating in elections requires the PA to stop pursuing and arresting our members.”

Abbas has not indicated an intention to call for elections to the presidency or the Palestinian National Council.

Adam Rasgon contributed to this report.

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