The Biden administration is apparently hoping that engaging Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (pictured) would undermine Hamas and other Palestinian extremists and embolden "moderate" Palestinians who are prepared to make peace with Israel and renounce violence. The results of the polls, however, show that the Palestinian public is moving in precisely the opposite direction – towards more extremism and disillusionment with the PA leadership. (Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)
The Biden administration's policy of engaging with and strengthening the Palestinian Authority (PA) has suffered a setback: most Palestinians continue to express dissatisfaction with the performance of PA President Mahmoud Abbas and demand his resignation.
The Biden administration's hope of reviving the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians has also suffered another blow: a majority of Palestinians remain opposed to returning to negotiations with Israel under the leadership of the US. In addition, half the Palestinian public favor a return to an armed struggle against Israel.
Moreover, many Palestinians are not convinced that they will benefit from the Biden administration's decision to resume financial aid to the PA because of the corruption of the Palestinian leadership.
The Palestinian attitudes were reflected in the findings of public opinion polls published over the past two months by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research.
The results of the polls indicate that the Biden administration's policies towards the Palestinians in particular and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in general are detached from reality.
The Biden administration is apparently hoping that engaging Abbas would undermine Hamas and other Palestinian extremists and embolden "moderate" Palestinians who are prepared to make peace with Israel and renounce violence.
The results of the polls, however, show that the Palestinian public is moving in precisely the opposite direction -- towards more extremism and disillusionment with the PA leadership.
The growing anti-Israel sentiments among the Palestinians are mainly the result of decades of indoctrination and incitement against Israel in the Palestinian media, mosques, schools and rhetoric of Palestinian leaders.
The most recent poll, published on October 27, found that the past six months witnessed a significant decrease in the popularity of Abbas and his ruling Fatah faction. The pollsters attributed the decline to a number of developments, including Abbas's decision to call off the Palestinian Authority general elections, the most recent war in May between Israel and Hamas, and the murder of anti-corruption activist Nizar Banat, by PA security officers who beat him to death in June.
According to the poll, dissatisfaction with the performance of Abbas stands at 71% and about 74% want him to resign.
If new presidential elections were held today, the poll showed, most Palestinians would vote for the leader of Hamas, Ismail Haniyeh, or imprisoned Fatah operative Marwan Barghouti, currently serving five life terms in prison for his role in lethal terrorist attacks against Israelis.
Those who want to see Haniyeh as their president support Hamas's charter, which openly calls for jihad (holy war) against Israel.
The most recent, supposedly moderate, 1988 version of the Hamas charter, views the "problem of Palestine" as a religious-political Muslim issue, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a confrontation between Islam and the "infidel" Jews. "Palestine" is presented as sacred Islamic land and it is strictly forbidden to give up one inch of it because no one has the authority to do so.
Even so, the second paragraph of the revised Hamas charter states: "Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it."
Article 7 states:
"The Islamic Resistance Movement aspires to realize the promise of Allah, no matter how long it takes. The Prophet, Allah's prayer and peace be upon him, says: 'The hour of judgment shall not come until the Muslims fight the Jews and kill them, so that the Jews hide behind trees and stones, and each tree and stone will say: 'Oh Muslim, oh servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him'"
Article 11 of the Hamas charter states:
"The Islamic Resistance [Hamas] believes 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."
"There is no solution to the Palestinian problem except by jihad. The initiatives, proposals and international conferences are but a waste of time, an exercise in futility."
"It is necessary to instill the spirit of jihad in the heart of the nation so that they would confront the enemies and join the ranks of the fighters. It is necessary to instill in the minds of the Muslim generations that the Palestinian problem is a religious problem, and should be dealt with on this basis."
A previous poll conducted by the same center in September found that 45% of the Palestinians believe that Hamas is more deserving of representing and leading the Palestinian people, while only 19% believe Abbas and Fatah are more deserving.
Barghouti, for his part, is popular among Palestinians because he is regarded as being more extreme than Abbas, and because he was indicted by an Israeli court on 26 charges of murder and attempted murder. In 2014, Barghouti called from his prison cell for launching a third intifada (uprising) against Israel. He also urged the PA leadership to immediately end security coordination with Israel.
Haniyeh and Barghouti are popular among Palestinians because each one has spent time in Israeli prisons. Abbas, on the other hand, never spent a day in an Israeli prison, which is one of the reasons he commands less respect from his people.
In the world of the Palestinians, those who murder Jews or are committed to the elimination of Israel are the most suitable candidates for the presidency.
Another interesting, though not surprising, finding of the poll: half of the Palestinian public described the status of human rights and democracy under the PA as very bad.
Referring to the peace process with Israel, 68% of the Palestinians said that they oppose a return to negotiations with Israel led by the US under the Biden administration.
According to the September poll, 83% of the Palestinians believe there is corruption in Palestinian Authority institutions. This figure should serve as a red light to the Biden administration in wake of its decision to restore financial aid to the PA.
When Palestinians talk about rampant corruption, they are sending a warning to the Biden administration and other Western donors against pouring money on Palestinian leaders unconditionally, without transparency and accountability.
On October 18, Abbas decided to form a "National Committee for Reform" in an attempt to persuade Palestinians and international donors that he is serious about combating financial and administrative corruption in the PA. Some Palestinians, however, do not buy Abbas's ploy. In response to Abbas's decision, the Palestinian Coalition for Accountability and Integrity (AMAN) said:
"The PA is in dire need of serious structural reform, especially given the disruption of peaceful transition of power and elections, which serve as a democratic mechanism for access to power... Government practice is marred by weak transparency, participation, and integrity. Although it has a major influence on the political system, formal oversight of the executive branch of government has been debilitated...
"[O]bjections have also been raised against oppressive practices, including measures characterised as infringements on public freedoms and fundamental rights. Combined with the ongoing Palestinian internal political divide (between Fatah and Hamas), this situation has, consequently, prompted a continued decline in government integrity and a rapid slide into a totalitarian and authoritarian political system."
The policy of strengthening Abbas and the PA is probably good in the short term. It is good as long as the PA continues to manage the daily affairs of the Palestinians (Israelis do not want to go back to the days when they had to run the schools and hospitals of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip) and conducts security coordination with Israel, thereby preventing Hamas from taking control over the West Bank.
In the long term, however, this policy is not going to change the sentiments among the Palestinian public.
The millions of dollars that the Biden administration is pouring on the Palestinians will not make them more moderate and encourage them to abandon violence and terrorism. There is only one way to deradicalize the Palestinians: halt the ongoing campaign to delegitimize Israel and demonize Jews. It is the catastrophic failure to hold Abbas and the PA to account for their incitement against Israel and for their corruption that is emboldening Hamas and others who seek to destroy Israel.
Khaled Abu Toameh is an award-winning journalist based in Jerusalem.