Poll shows Hamas leader would defeat Abbas to win Palestinian elections

Pollster links Ismail Haniyeh’s rising popularity to perceived Hamas win in its recent Gaza confrontation with Israel, dissatisfaction with PA policies

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 public opinion poll shows that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas would lose to the leader of the Hamas terror group if elections were held today.

The poll conducted by prominent pollster Khalil Shikaki and released Tuesday shows that Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh would win with 49 percent to Abbas’s 42%.

Shikaki links the results to a perceived Hamas win in its latest confrontation with Israel and dissatisfaction with Abbas’s government, particularly over a new social security law.

The poll interviewed 1,200 people in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and had a 3% margin of error.

Abbas’s Fatah faction and Hamas are bitter rivals. Palestinian elections were last held in 2006 and have been repeatedly delayed since.

Abbas has long said he opposes violence against Israelis and supports peaceful protest against Israel’s military control in the West Bank. The PA cooperates closely with Israeli security, while Hamas has fought three wars with the Jewish state since 2008.

Earlier this month Abbas said he would soon dissolve the long-defunct PA parliament, the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC).

Hamas, which controls a majority of the seats in the PLC, has long expressed its opposition to dissolving the legislative body.

Shortly after Hamas ousted the Fatah-dominated PA from the Gaza Strip in 2007, the PLC stopped convening. Ramallah-based Palestinian officials have contended that the West Bank and Gaza must be ruled by one government before holding legislative elections.

In November a dramatic flareup between Isael and Hamas in Gaza saw nearly 500 rockets and mortar shells fired at southern Israel, killing one person and injuring scores more, some seriously. It was the worst escalation in violence in the Strip since 2014.

In response, the Israel Defense Forces bombed over 160 sites connected to Hamas and Islamic Jihad, including four sites the army identified as “key strategic assets.”

But Israel’s quick acceptance of a ceasefire with Hamas was heavily criticized by many in the Israeli public, and Avigdor Liberman subsequently resigned from the Defense Ministry over what he said was the government’s mishandling of the fighting and “capitulation to terror.”

Hamas has gone on to portray the violent exchange as a victory. Within Gaza the ceasefire was met with joyous rallies.

Adam Rasgon contributed to this report.

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