In the past few weeks, thousands of Palestinians in Jerusalem and the West Bank have been demonstrating in support of Hamas, especially after it fired thousands of rockets and missiles at Israel. Pictured: A crowd of Arab men wave Hamas flags on May 21, 2021, in Ramallah. (Photo by Abbas Momani/AFP via Getty Images)
On the eve of his first official visit to the Middle East, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken reaffirmed support for a two-state solution as the only way to provide hope to Israelis and Palestinians that they can live "with equal measures of security, of peace, and dignity."
During his visit to Israel and the West Bank, Blinken is expected to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who has been urging the Biden administration to work toward "achieving a just and lasting peace that would ensure the Palestinian people's right to freedom and independence" and the establishment of a Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital.
The renewed talk about a "two-state solution" comes amid a significant increase in the popularity of Hamas, the Palestinian terrorist group whose charter openly calls for replacing Israel with an Islamic state. It also comes at a time when Abbas's popularity is at its lowest ebb.
In the past few weeks, thousands of Palestinians in Jerusalem and the West Bank have been demonstrating in support of Hamas, especially after it fired thousands of rockets and missiles at Israel.
The demonstrators have been chanting slogans praising Hamas and Islamic Jihad (Iran's Palestinian proxies) for targeting Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and other Israeli cities during the 11-day battle with Israel. The demonstrators have been raising Hamas flags and posters of its leaders even in areas controlled by Abbas's Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank, including Ramallah, the de facto capital of the Palestinians.
At the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem, thousands of Palestinians have been praising Hamas for firing rockets at Israel and chanting, "We are the men of Mohammed Deif!"
Deif, the supreme commander of Hamas's military wing, Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, is Israel's most wanted terrorist, ever since his direct involvement in a series of terrorist attacks, including suicide bombings and kidnapping Israelis.
During some of the demonstrations, Palestinians chanted slogans denouncing Abbas as a "traitor," a "US agent" and an "Israeli collaborator."
Last Friday, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Sheikh Mohammed Hussein, who was appointed by Abbas, was attacked by Muslim worshippers at the al-Aqsa Mosque.
The assailants, believed to be Hamas supporters, expelled the mufti from the mosque after accusing him of failing to support the rocket and missile attacks on Israel. As he was being whisked away from the mosque, the protesters shouted at the mufti: "The dogs of the Palestinian Authority must go away!"
The expulsion of the mufti is a sign of the declining popularity and influence of Abbas among Palestinians. It is also a sign of the growing popularity of Hamas, which states in its charter that "Allah is its goal, the Prophet (Mohammed) its model, the Quran its Constitution, Jihad (holy war) its path and death for the cause of Allah its most sublime belief."
The Palestinians who took to the streets to voice support for Hamas were saying that they share its belief that "the land of Palestine has been an Islamic Waqf throughout the generations and until the Day of Resurrection; no one can renounce it or part of it, or abandon it or part of it. No Arab country nor the aggregate of all Arab countries, and no Arab king or president, be they Palestinian or Arab, have that right."
The Palestinians, in addition, are saying that they share Hamas's view that "[peace] initiatives, the so-called peaceful solutions, and the international conferences to resolve the Palestinian problem, are all contrary to the beliefs of the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) and renouncing any part of Palestine means renouncing part of the religion."
The Palestinians are telling Blinken that he is wasting his time if he thinks that they would accept "so-called peaceful solutions" or "renounce any part of Palestine." They are also sending a warning to Abbas that recognition of Israel's right to exist and acceptance of the "two-state solution" is tantamount to treason, a crime punishable by death.
It is not clear how the Biden administration expects Abbas to work toward establishing a Palestinian state alongside Israel when the Palestinian leader is being besieged by his people because of his supposed belief in peace with Israel.
It is also not clear how the Biden administration expects Abbas to deliver on anything when he cannot even visit the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, home to nearly two million Palestinians.
In 2007, Abbas accused Hamas of trying to assassinate him just before the terrorist group seized control of the Gaza Strip. Abbas said that he had seen videotapes of Hamas men digging a tunnel under a road, where his car was to pass, and trying to fill it with 250 kilograms of explosives.
Hamas leaders have in the past warned that if Abbas sets foot in the Gaza Strip, he will be executed by hanging in a public square for betraying the Palestinian people and collaborating with Israel.
Abbas has even greater reason for worry now, as Hamas's reputation among Palestinians has risen dramatically, due to its firing thousands of rockets and missiles throughout Israel during the last round of fighting.
As long as Israel maintains overall security control over the West Bank, Abbas can feel safe sitting in his office or at home in Ramallah. It is only Israel's presence in the West Bank that is keeping him in power and preventing Hamas from extending its control beyond the Gaza Strip.
Blinken's visit to Ramallah also comes on the heels of Abbas's controversial decision to delay the Palestinian parliamentary elections, which were supposed to take place on May 22. The postponement of the elections has angered many Palestinians, who accused Abbas of depriving his people of the right to elect new leaders.
Instead of admitting that he was afraid that Hamas was going to defeat his Fatah faction in the elections, Abbas chose to blame Israel for hindering the elections on the pretext that it did not respond to his request to hold the vote in Jerusalem. In 2006, Hamas won the parliamentary elections mainly due to divisions in Fatah and rampant corruption in the Palestinian Authority.
Abbas is afraid of going back to the Gaza Strip. He is afraid of a Hamas victory in Palestinian elections. Abbas is afraid that Hamas will try to stage a coup against the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.
Abbas knows that the "two-state solution" is already here, albeit not the one that the Biden administration has in mind. Since 2007, the Palestinians have two separate mini-states, one in the West Bank and the second in the Gaza Strip. Abbas, however, does not feel comfortable talking about the Palestinians' two rival entities, Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and prefers to continue pretending that the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel is still a realistic option.
A recent public opinion poll showed that 57% of the Palestinians are opposed to the two-state solution. Another 57% said they support the "armed struggle" and "popular resistance" against Israel.
According to the poll, 68% of the Palestinians want Abbas to resign. In late 2020, 66% of the Palestinian public said they want Abbas to quit.
So, the Palestinians are saying that they are opposed to the "two-state solution" and want to oust Abbas. They are also saying that they consider Hamas leaders as the true heroes of the Palestinians and seek to engage in an armed struggle against Israel.
These are the voices that Blinken will not hear during his visit to Ramallah. If he is serious about gauging the mood on the Palestinian street, Blinken needs to go out and talk to ordinary Palestinians. There, he will get a good grasp of the Palestinians' profound anti-Israel sentiments and their deep support for Iran's proxies and others who wish to wipe Israel off the map.
Khaled Abu Toameh is an award-winning journalist based in Jerusalem.