The most recent public opinion poll in the Palestinian territories shows that Marwan Barghouti, the dominant Fatah leader who is serving five life terms in Israeli prison for his role in several terror attacks during the second intifada, would win the presidential election.
The poll, conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research also shows clear improvement in the standing of Hamas, while its rival secular Fatah faction has declined in popularity.
Palestinians prefer someone like Barghouti to lead them because he launched terror attacks on Israelis and is sitting in Israeli prison.
The fact that Barghouti's attacks resulted in the death of a number of Jews gives him leadership credentials. He is popular among Palestinians because he has Jewish blood on his hands and was involved in "armed resistance."
Barghouti, according to the poll, would even defeat Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh if they ran against him in a presidential election.
Abbas and Haniyeh are no longer popular: they are not actively involved in terror attacks against Israel.
Even worse, as far as many Palestinians are concerned, Abbas is "preventing" terror attacks against Israel from the West Bank, while Haniyeh has betrayed his movement's ideology by agreeing to a temporary cease-fire with the Jews.
In Palestinian society, it is much more important if one graduates from an Israeli prison than from a university in the US or Europe.
People like Prime Minister Salam Fayyad are almost entirely unacceptable to most Palestinians: they were not involved in "resistance attacks" against Jews or did not send their children to carry out suicide bombings.
Fayyad never spent a day in Israel prison and that is enough -- as far as many Palestinians are concerned -- to disqualify him as a future leader. The U.S.-educated Fayyad, in other words, is too moderate and too peaceful and too educated.
Palestinians adored Yasser Arafat mainly because he was a symbol of the armed struggle against Israel. They loved his military uniform and pistol because they were viewed as a symbol of the armed struggle against Israel. Arafat was loved because he was personally responsible for dozens, if not hundreds, of terror attacks against Israel.
When Barghouti contests the next presidential election, if and when it ever takes place, he would be able to boast of his direct responsibility for terror attacks that killed Israelis. Abbas and Fayyad would have nothing in this regard to tell their people.
Economic prosperity and the peace process with Israel are not going to convince most Palestinians to vote for people like Fayyad or Abbas.
The future leaders of the Palestinians are currently sitting in Israeli prisons. They include dispatchers of suicide bombers, heads of terror cells, ordinary terrorists and political leaders of various terror groups in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Moderate Palestinians who are opposed to violence and terror will have no say in the future decision-making process. All this bodes ill for the peace process and stability in the region. If anything, the results of the poll show that the Palestinians are headed toward further radicalization.
Hisham Jarallah is a journalist and commentator based in the West Bank.