Hamas's approval rating has sunk to significantlylow levels in the West Bank and even lower levels inside the GazaStrip, according to a recent poll for The Israel Project that gathersArab public opinion on a number of key issues.
The poll, conducted by Stan Greenberg ofGreenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, included face-to-face interviewswith hundreds of adults in Egypt, Jordan, the West Bank and Gaza, alongwith a series of focus groups in Cairo and Ramallah.
While the numbers indicate ongoing, deep hostility towardIsrael in the Arab world, the poll also shows signs that powerfulplayers in the region, such as Hamas, are in deep trouble at home, andthat the people living under their direct rule are becominglyincreasingly vocal in their criticism.
"Gaza is a big open sore for Hamas, and it's become a symbolthat has turned people against armed struggle and in favor ofnegotiations," Greenberg told The Jerusalem Post in an interview on Friday. "Hamas has become marginalized politically."
Accordingto the poll, 58 percent of Gazans said they disapprove of the job beingdone 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 20thcentury, including Nicaragua and El Salvador during the conflicts there[in the 1980s], and I polled in Afghanistan under the Taliban, before9/11," Greenberg said. "And I thought that in Gaza, after [Hamas's2006] takeover, people would be cautious about responding to the poll.But just look at the results. Nearly 60% of the people there have anegative image of Hamas, and felt free to say it, which says to me thatit's even worse than that."
The poll also shows Fatah would beat Hamas by a solid 10percentage points in both the West Bank and Gaza, if Palestinians wereto vote in parliamentary elections today. While Fatah's popularity wasmuch higher than Hamas's in the West Bank, by a 45-28% margin, Fatahwas still able to edge Hamas by 3% in Gaza, where 33% of those polledsaid 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% ofPalestinians in the West Bank said Hamas was to blame, while 16% ofGazans agreed.
Additionally, of all the places polled, Gazans made up thehighest percentage - 38% - of those who said they believed that bothIsrael and Hamas, together, were responsible for the current Gazacrisis.
Nonetheless, Gazans and Jordanians both showed a surprisinglyhigh level of support for direct negotiations with Israel. More thanhalf of those two groups - 52% of those polled - said they believedPalestinians should negotiate directly with Israel, accept its right toexist and honor past agreements. Thirty-nine percent of Egyptians saidthe same, compared to 36% of Palestinians in the West Bank.
Also surprising, Greenberg said, was that while 35% of theother groups polled stressed the importance of releasing captive IDFsoldier Gilad Schalit, an overwhelming two-thirds of Gazans said thesame.
The poll also revealed that nearly a decade after the breakdownof the Camp David Accords between Yasser Arafat, then-US president BillClinton and then-prime minister Ehud Barak, a majority of those polledin Egypt, Jordan and the West Bank expressed regret that Arafat failedto accept the peace deal proposed there.
Fifty-six percent of West Bank Palestinians said that inretrospect, they wished Arafat had accepted the agreement, while 50% ofJordanians and 39% of Egyptians said the same. In Gaza, 57% of thosepolled 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%.