Palestinians have joked for years that West Bankers living under Fatah oppose Fatah, while those living in Gaza under Hamas rule oppose Hamas. Familiarity breeds contempt, it seems, or at least suppresses support.
The most recent polling lends further credence to this view. A poll by Arab World Research and Development in Ramallah sampled 1,200 Palestinians from both Gaza and the West Bank, in the aftermath of the recent Gaza conflict and the UN General Assembly vote according “non-member state” status to “Palestine.” As the story in The Times of Israel summed up results,
42% of West Bank respondents said they preferred the approach of Hamas to that of Fatah, as opposed to only 28% who preferred Fatah’s approach. Interestingly, more Gazans, 40%, said they preferred Fatah’s approach to that of Hamas, which rules over them. Thirty-seven percent of Gazans said Hamas’s approach was better.
The polling on individual leaders shows the same pattern. The approval rating for PA president Abbas is slightly higher in Gaza than in the West Bank, while Hamas’s Ismail Haniyeh has a disapproval rating of 29 percent in the West Bank and 41 percent in Gaza, and Khaled Meshal’s disapproval rating is also higher in Gaza than in the West Bank.
Sadly, the Hamas “approach” of which Palestinians were apparently approving is war and terrorism instead of peace negotiations. In fact the poll found that “88 percent believe that the results of the confrontation in Gaza prove that armed struggle is the best means of achieving Palestinian independence.” And unsurprisingly in view of that number, support for “a immediate return to negotiations with Israel” dropped. Meanwhile, support for Prime Minister Fayyad has also dropped, and the poll shows that Ismail Haniyeh noses him out now among all Palestinians.
Making sense of all these numbers is difficult and some of the results appear inconsistent. But the most striking number is that the vast majority of Palestinians support Hamas’s “armed struggle,” which is to say terrorism. The only good news here is that Hamas as an organization has not won the “hearts and minds” of a majority of Gazans during its five years of misrule. The very bad news is that it has apparently persuaded Palestinians that “armed struggle” is the way forward.