Perhaps Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ harsh speech before the United Nations on Friday was designed to strengthen his standing in the eyes of his own public: His remarks before the global body on Friday came just three days after a poll showed that 78% of Palestinians want him to resign his position.
The Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PCPSR) conducted the poll in both the West Bank and Gaza Strip between Sept. 15-18 at a time when two of six Palestinian prisoners were still on the loose after escaping a high-security Israeli prison.
Satisfaction with Abbas’ performance was just 24% and dissatisfaction at 73%, according to the poll, with similar numbers in both the West Bank and Gaza.
“Moreover, 78% of the public want president Abbas to resign while only 19% want him to remain in office,” the PCPSR said. “Three months ago, 68% said they want Abbas to resign. Demand for Abbas’ resignation stands at 78% in the West Bank and 77% in the Gaza Strip.”
Though the prison escape inspired Palestinians, it seems to have little effect on the public’s view of Palestinian leadership. Instead, the killing of political activist Nizar Banat who died while in custody of Palestinian security services and the subsequent anger and demonstrations following his death, seem to have soured public opinion even more.
Some 63% of Palestinians believe that Banat’s death was intentional.
“The public is also angry with the manner in which the PA cracked down on public protests that demanded justice in the Banat case. In fact, three quarters view the behavior of the security services as a violation of liberties and human rights,” PCPSR said in a statement.
Support for Abbas and his Fatah party has long been waning. The Palestinian street generally views the current leadership to be an extension of the corrupt PLO. On the other hand, Hamas – which took control of the Gaza Strip in 2007 by force – has exploited the PA’s failures to its advantage and positioned itself an alternative to the Fatah party, headed by Abbas.
Further exacerbating anti-Abbas sentiment was that Hamas came off as the Palestinians’ hero after launching 4,300 rockets at Israeli civilians in May, essentially hijacking influence and sway among the Palestinian public.
“This is the worst polling we’ve ever seen for the president,” said Khalil Shikaki, head of the PCPSR. “He has never been in as bad a position as today.”
Abbas, who has been in office for 15 years, was up for reelection this summer but delayed the vote back in April with polls at the time showing he was going to lose his grip on the presidency to Hamas.
With the changes that the region has witnessed – from the signing of peace agreements between the Arab countries and Israel, to Joe Biden winning the U.S. elections, to former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu losing to the right-winger Naftali Bennett – Fatah is undoubtedly searching for radical solutions to stay in power. Perhaps this was the impetus for Abbas’ ultimatum to Israel during his speech at the UN.
The poll surveyed 1,270 adults and has a margin of error of +/-3%.