Poll indicates 41% of Palestinians would vote for Hamas leader for president

Poll indicates 41% of Palestinians would vote for Hamas leader for president

Support for Haniyeh down from previous survey; Palestinians also split over support for two-state solution, approval of new prime minister

Adam Rasgon is the Palestinian affairs reporter at The Times of Israel

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)

If Palestinian presidential elections were to be held with a race between Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh, Abbas would win 51% of the vote compared to 41% for Haniyeh, while 8% said they were undecided, according to a survey published Tuesday.

The numbers represent a drop for Haniyeh. Asked who they would support in a similar poll in December 2018, 42% of Palestinians said they would vote Abbas, 49% said they would cast a ballot for Haniyeh and 9% said they did not know.

The poll’s results come after several days of protests in the Gaza Strip against the high costs of living, which were forcefully put down by the the Hamas terror group, which rules the territory.

The rare public show of dissent in Gaza began Thursday as demonstrators took to the streets in a number of locations throughout the Strip to protest the cost of living. It has been seen as a challenge to Hamas’s rule over the coastal enclave.

The Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PCPSR) conducted the poll, which surveyed 1,270 Palestinians in 127 randomly selected locations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip between March 13 and 16.

Palestinian presidential elections have not been held since 2005, when Abbas was elected to a four-year term.

Palestinian officials have argued that holding presidential elections now, while the West Bank and Gaza are not under one government, would further cement the division between the two territories.

Hamas seized control of Gaza in 2007 in an armed uprising against the Fatah-dominated PA. Repeated talks aimed at ending the split have failed.

A screenshot of video shown by the Kan public broadcaster of a protest in the Gaza Strip over the cost of living on March 15, 2019. (Screen capture: Twitter)

The survey also examined Palestinian support for a two-state solution with Israel.

Forty-eight percent of Palestinians said they support the two-state solution, while 50% said they oppose it and 2% said they were not sure, the survey also indicated.

When asked the same question by PCPSR in December 2018, 43% of Palestinians said they back the two-state solution, whereas 55% said they oppose it and 2% said they were undecided.

Abbas has said he supports a two-state solution, while Hamas calls for Israel’s destruction.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said on several occasions that he supports two states, but he has also stated that a Palestinian state will “endanger our existence” and pledged no Palestinian state will be created while he is in office.

In addition, many ministers in Netanyahu’s cabinet have strongly expressed their opposition to the idea.

The last known peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians collapsed in 2014.

The survey also indicated that Palestinians are split on the recent selection of Mohammad Shtayyeh, a senior Fatah official and economist, to serve as PA prime minister.

Newly-appointed Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh, at his office in Ramallah, March 10, 2019. (ABBAS MOMANI / AFP)

Thirty-eight percent of Palestinians said they were satisfied with the choice of Shtayyeh, while 40% stated they were dissatisfied with it and 22% said they were not sure, the survey found.

Abbas decided to appoint Shtayyeh, who also has participated in past peace talks, to the role of PA prime minister early last week and assigned him with the task of forming a new government.

According to Palestinian law, Shtayyeh has a maximum of five weeks to put together a government. If he fails to form one, the law says the PA president is required to appoint a new prime minister.

Forty-eight percent of Palestinians said they believe Shtayyeh, if he forms a government, would fail to achieve reconciliation and unify the West Bank and Gaza, while 35% said they maintain he would succeed in doing so and 18% were undecided, the survey indicated.

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