A new poll of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip shows Hamas is suffering from a self-inflicted wound to its political support due to its instigation of a war with Israel. The terrorist group has run afoul of the population that elected it into power in 2006 and the Arab world has been mostly silent, with some influential Arab figures even blaming Hamas for the Palestinian casualties.
A survey of 450 Gazans commissioned by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy was taken on June 15-17, making it the only credible poll after the fighting began that led to the start of Operation Protective Edge on July 8.
The poll found that 70% of Gazans wanted Hamas to maintain the ceasefire with Israel and 57% agree with Palestinian Authority President Abbas that the unity government (which includes Hamas) should renounce violence.
The implication of the poll is enormous. If the majority of Gazans want the Palestinian leadership to renounce violence, then that’s a dramatic setback for Islamist terrorists. However, the latest Pew poll shows that 46% of Palestinians say suicide bombings of civilians are always or sometimes justified and 13% say they are rarely justified.
Taken together, these polls indicate that a majority of Palestinians still view terrorism as acceptable but still favor renouncing violence. The most likely explanation for this apparent contradiction is that Palestinians now view violence as counter-productive, but not necessarily immoral.
The poll shows that the Hamas brand was in tatters in Gaza even before Operation Protective Edge began.
When asked who should be the next Palestinian president, Fatah leaders cumulatively scored a majority. Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal and Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh together could only muster 15% in Gaza and 9% in the West Bank.
The disapproval of Hamas is reflected in another poll question posed to Gazans. A stunning 88% want the Palestinian Authority to take over the administration on the Gaza Strip.
Again, these ratings are before Israel was forced to respond to Hamas’s relentless rocket fire, the reaction of the Arab world and Hamas’s rejection of a ceasefire.
Don’t mistake these statistics for a breakthrough in the peace process, though. The poll found that only 27% of Palestinians favor a two-state solution, while 60% aspire to eliminate the state of Israel.
The findings echo the observations of Mudar Zahran, a Palestinian-Jordanian opposition leader currently in the West Bank who told the Clarion Project that most Palestinians want the violence to end. He likewise told FOX News Channel that Gazans have turned against Hamas en masse.
Middle East analyst Lisa Daftari spoke with several Gazans who said the same thing, including a Palestinian journalist who did not want his name disclosed. He said that “most Gazans hate Hamas with a passion.”
“You need to understand that Palestinian blood has been shed by Hamas itself” and “living under Hamas is a tragedy,” he told Daftari.
Hamas’s rule has made its support plummet. It was elected with 44% of the vote in 2006 and its approval rating climbed to 62% in 2007. The most recent Pew poll, taken from April 10 to May 25, found that only 35% of Palestinians view Hamas favorably, with 63% of Gazans and 47% of Palestinians in the West Bank having an unfavorable view.
However, the biggest obstacle to peace in the Middle East is the popular support of the Islamist radicals. You can destroy weapons and neutralize terrorist leaders, but the Islamist ideology inevitably leads to the rejuvenation of the threat.
Luckily, Hamas and other Islamist terrorists are helping the West and peace-seekers by defeating themselves with their own hands. In the war against Islamism, the radicals’ penchant for self-inflicting wounds is among our greatest weapons. :