Palestinians overwhelmingly oppose Abbas pressure on Gaza
Poll shows majority of Strip’s residents support Hamas-Dahlan deal, but Fatah strongman still has paltry support for presidency
Dov Lieber is The Times of Israel's Arab affairs correspondent.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s tough measures to force Hamas to cede control of the Gaza Strip are overwhelmingly opposed by Palestinians, according to a poll released Wednesday.
Since April, Abbas has cut funds for Israeli-supplied electricity to Gaza by 35 percent, reduced by one-third the salaries of tens of thousands of PA employees in Gaza, and reduced the medical budget for Gaza by a reported 90%. On Tuesday, he forced over 6,000 PA employees Gaza into early retirement.
A poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research found that 84% of Palestinians oppose cutting the electricity and 88% oppose reducing the salaries to government employees.
Abbas’s government has admitted these measures are aimed at forcing Hamas to give up control in Gaza, which it took over in a violent conflict with the PA-controlling Fatah party in 2007.
The poll found that 78% think the strategy will be ineffective in forcing Hamas to cede control. Only 13% said the measures will work.
However, 47% said they want Hamas to accept Abbas’s demands if it leads to better conditions in Gaza, while 38% said they wanted Hamas not to cave in.
On Tuesday, the spokesperson for the government in Ramalllah, Yusuf al-Mahmoud, said in a statement to the official PA news site Wafa that all the measures “are temporary, and are connected to Hamas abandoning [Palestinian] division.”
Mahmoud added that the measures were part of the “national strategy to end the division and implement President Mahmoud Abbas’s vision to dissolve the so-called Administrative Committee” and allow the Palestinian government to assume its responsibilities in the Strip and prepare for general elections.
Hamas, a terror group sworn to Israel’s destruction. formed the Administrative Committee in March in order to widen its governance in the Strip.
Majority of Gazans want Hamas-Dahlan deal
The poll also found little support for former Fatah leader Mohammed Dahlan, though some backing for a deal he brokered between Hamas and Egypt to ease conditions in the Strip.
In a bid to counter Abbas’s measures and solve the electricity crisis in Gaza, Hamas leaders met in Cairo early in June with Dahlan, Abbas’s main rival in the Fatah party.
Dahlan is a former Fatah leader and was considered a strongman in Gaza before being ousted in the 2006 coup that brought Hamas to power in the Strip. He was expelled from the Palestinian territories by Abbas in 2011.
Dahlan and Hamas reportedly agreed to establish a new “management committee” of Gaza, which would see the Fatah strongman share control of the Palestinian enclave.
The poll found that the Hamas-Dahlan deal is far more popular in Gaza, where 61% support it, than in the West Bank, where only 29% were in favor.
A total of 50% said that if the Hamas-Dahlan agreement were implemented, then it would lead to a total separation between the West Bank and Gaza, while 38% said it would not lead to a total separation.
While Dahlan’s power inside the Palestinian territories seems to be on the upswing, the poll shows the vast majority of Palestinians do not want him to succeed the 82-year-old Abbas, who is in his eleventh year of what was meant to be a four-year presidential term.
Should Abbas not run in the next Palestinian president elections, according to the poll, 35% prefer to see jailed Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti replacing him, while 19% prefer Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, and just 7% would like to see Dahlan take office.
Barghouti is serving multiple life-sentences after being found guilty of murder in a Israel civilian court.
Majority pessimistic about Trump-led peace talks
The majority of Palestinians believe relations between Israel and the Palestinians will continue to deteriorate amid an effort by United States President Donald Trump to restart peace talks.
Following Trump’s visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority in May, 51% of respondents believe Palestinian-Israeli relations will continue to worsen, 13% think it will improve, and 33% said it will remain the same.
These numbers were nearly identical to how respondents viewed the future of Palestinian-American relations.
While respondents expressed pessimism about the prospects of peace, the poll showed a meaningful drop in Palestinian support for an armed Intifada.
Three months ago, support for violence was 51%, and has now dropped down to 39%. A majority (54%) said they support nonviolent resistance to Israeli policy.
The Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research said that support for violence dropped possibly due to the “public perception of the negligible outcome of such attacks, such as knifings and shootings.”
The total size of the polling sample was 1,200 adults, interviewed in person in 120 randomly selected locations. The margin of error was set at 3%.