Poll: Gazans increasingly happy with Oct. 7; 52% want Hamas to rule Strip after war

Survey also shows big jump in number of Gazans who want two-state solution and decline among respondents who think armed resistance is the way to achieve Palestinian statehood

People wave Palestinian, Hamas and Fatah flags during a march in support of the people in the Gaza Strip, in the West Bank city of Nablus on October 26, 2023 (Zain JAAFAR / AFP)
People wave Palestinian, Hamas and Fatah flags during a march in support of the people in the Gaza Strip, in the West Bank city of Nablus on October 26, 2023 (Zain JAAFAR / AFP)

A poll released Wednesday found a growing number of Gazans view the terror group’s October 7 onslaught favorably, and 52% of Gazans also said they want Hamas to rule Gaza at the end of the war, up from 38% since December. At the same, the survey found declining levels of support for Hamas in both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank since the last quarterly survey.

The poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, which showed a wide array of sometimes contradictory stances, also found a dramatic rise in support for a two-state solution among Gazans, along with a dip among Palestinians in both the West Bank and the Strip in those who think independence should be achieved through armed struggle.

According to the survey, which sampled 1,580 Palestinian adults in early March, 71 percent of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank believe that the October 7 massacres in which in terrorists killed some 1,200 people and kidnapped 253 others was “correct,” versus 72% who said so when the organization’s previous poll was published in December.

In the West Bank, the 71% figure is down from 82% in December who agreed with the decision to launch the onslaught. In Gaza, however, the number was a significant increase from the 57% who backed the move three months earlier.

According to the PCPSR, the growing support for the brutal assault was likely tied to the belief that it had brought long-sought attention to the Palestinian struggle for statehood, and did not necessarily reflect support for the slaughter, abduction, rape and mutilation unleashed by Hamas on Israeli civilians.

The poll found the number of Palestinians who admit Hamas committed war crimes fell from 10% to 5%.

Palestinians rush to collect the humanitarian aid airdropped into Gaza City, Gaza Strip, on Sunday, March 17, 2024. (AP/Mohammed Hajjar)

Although support for Hamas as a political party rose among Gazans from 22% in September to 42% in December, the survey found it slipped back somewhat to 34% in March. In the West Bank, where support for Hamas had jumped from 12% to 44% after the attack, it fell back to 35% in March.

While support for PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party returned to prewar levels of 25% in Gaza, it continued to plummet in the West Bank, hitting 12%, down from 26% in September.

Asked who they would hope to see in charge of the Gaza Strip at the end of Israel’s war with Hamas, 52% of respondents in Gaza said they hoped to see Hamas return to rule the enclave, up from 38% in December. Among those in the West Bank, 64% think Hamas should run postwar Gaza, down from 75% in December.

Twenty-one percent of respondents in Gaza said they hoped the Palestinian Authority would return to control the Strip but only under the leadership of someone other than Abbas, whom an overwhelming majority of Palestinians want to see resign.

An additional 19% of Gazans said they would be satisfied with the PA returning under Abbas, compared to 6% of West Bankers who felt the same way.

PCPSR director Khalil Shikaki attributed the support for Hamas’s control of Gaza after the war to a lack of viable alternatives, and noted that the responses appeared to dovetail with opinions on whether Hamas will win the war, which grew among  Gazans and fell among West Bank respondents.

The findings by the Palestinian pollster signal difficulty for US President Joe Biden’s vision for postwar Gaza, as Washington has called for the West Bank’s PA to return to Gaza for the first time since it was ousted in a violent coup by Hamas in 2007.

The US hopes that a revitalized PA could assume control of both territories as a precursor to Palestinian statehood.

While Gazans continue to prefer Hamas, a terror group that rejects Israel’s existence, the share of Palestinians in the Strip who back a two-state solution of a Palestinian state alongside the State of Israel soared to nearly double the prewar figure.

A displaced Palestinian man pushes a wheelbarrow in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on March 14, 2024. (AFP)

In September, just 34% of Gazans supported the two-state solution, a figure which remained steady in December, but in March, the poll found 64% now back the idea.

In the West Bank, support for two states rose marginally, from 30% in September to 34% in March.

The poll’s authors noted that “support for the two-state solution is usually linked to public assessment of the feasibility of such a solution and the chances for the establishment of a Palestinian state,” indicating that the numbers in Gaza could be driven by increased international backing for Palestinian statehood.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has spoken out strongly against the possibility of Palestinian statehood, even as the US and other allies have expressed hope that the removal of Hamas from Gaza will lead to Palestinian independence.

He has warned that the “attempt to impose” the establishment of a Palestinian state would “endanger the State of Israel.”

In February the Knesset backed Netanyahu’s symbolic declaration opposing the unilateral recognition of an independent state of Palestine, with 99 out of 120 lawmakers voting in support of the motion.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, right, chairs a session of the weekly cabinet meeting with Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Monday, April 29, 2019 (Majdi Mohammed / AP)

As support for two states is on the rise, the belief that armed resistance is the best method to achieve statehood is decreasing. In December 2023, 56% of Gazans believed it was the most effective method, compared to 39% today.

In the West Bank, the percentage of people who supported armed resistance decreased from 68% in December to 51% today.

The poll was conducted between March 5 and March 10 with a sample size of 1,580 adults across the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. In Gaza, surveys were only conducted in areas where fighting was not ongoing, meaning northern Gaza and parts of Khan Younis were excluded.

The margin of error was +/-3%.

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