Hamas gunmen in Rafah 248.88.
(photo credit: )
Hamas's approval rating has sunk to significantly low levels in the West Bank and even lower levels inside the Gaza Strip, according to a recent poll for The Israel Project that gathers Arab public opinion on a number of key issues.
The poll, conducted by Stan Greenberg of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, included face-to-face interviews with hundreds of adults in Egypt, Jordan, the West Bank and Gaza, along with a series of focus groups in Cairo and Ramallah.
While the numbers indicate ongoing, deep hostility toward Israel in the Arab world, the poll also shows signs that powerful players in the region, such as Hamas, are in deep trouble at home, and that the people living under their direct rule are becomingly increasingly vocal in their criticism.
"Gaza is a big open sore for Hamas, and it's become a symbol that has turned people against armed struggle and in favor of negotiations," Greenberg told The Jerusalem Post in an interview on Friday. "Hamas has become marginalized politically."
According to the poll, 58 percent of Gazans said they disapprove of the job being done by Hamas in the Gaza Strip, while 42% of them said they "disapprove strongly."
Fifty-seven percent of Palestinians in the West Bank also said they disapprove of Hamas, but only 16% disapproved "strongly."
"I've polled in a number of war zones in the 20th century, including Nicaragua and El Salvador during the conflicts there [in the 1980s], and I polled in Afghanistan under the Taliban, before 9/11," Greenberg said. "And I thought that in Gaza, after [Hamas's 2006] takeover, people would be cautious about responding to the poll. But just look at the results. Nearly 60% of the people there have a negative image of Hamas, and felt free to say it, which says to me that it's even worse than that."
The poll also shows Fatah would beat Hamas by a solid 10 percentage points in both the West Bank and Gaza, if Palestinians were to vote in parliamentary elections today. While Fatah's popularity was much higher than Hamas's in the West Bank, by a 45-28% margin, Fatah was still able to edge Hamas by 3% in Gaza, where 33% of those polled said they favored Fatah, compared to 30% for Hamas.
When asked who was responsible for the current crisis in Gaza, Israel was overwhelmingly blamed by all the groups polled. But while 5% of Egyptians and Jordanians blamed Hamas for the current crisis, 35% of Palestinians in the West Bank said Hamas was to blame, while 16% of Gazans agreed.
Additionally, of all the places polled, Gazans made up the highest percentage - 38% - of those who said they believed that both Israel and Hamas, together, were responsible for the current Gaza crisis.
Nonetheless, Gazans and Jordanians both showed a surprisingly high level of support for direct negotiations with Israel. More than half of those two groups - 52% of those polled - said they believed Palestinians should negotiate directly with Israel, accept its right to exist and honor past agreements. Thirty-nine percent of Egyptians said the same, compared to 36% of Palestinians in the West Bank.
Also surprising, Greenberg said, was that while 35% of the other groups polled stressed the importance of releasing captive IDF soldier Gilad Schalit, an overwhelming two-thirds of Gazans said the same.
The poll also revealed that nearly a decade after the breakdown of the Camp David Accords between Yasser Arafat, then-US president Bill Clinton and then-prime minister Ehud Barak, a majority of those polled in Egypt, Jordan and the West Bank expressed regret that Arafat failed to accept the peace deal proposed there.
Fifty-six percent of West Bank Palestinians said that in retrospect, they wished Arafat had accepted the agreement, while 50% of Jordanians and 39% of Egyptians said the same. In Gaza, 57% of those polled said they did not regret Arafat's rejection of the deal.
Greenberg said that these West Bank results show a change of heart since the breakdown of the Camp David talks.
The poll had a margin of error of +/- 3.5%.