JERUSALEM – A new poll in the West Bank and Gaza Strip suggested that if elections were held now, Palestinians would re-elect President Mahmoud Abbas with 49.9 percent support compared to only 29 percent for Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal.
The poll by the independent Palestinian Center for Public Opinion also indicated that 40 percent of Palestinians fear the reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas will lead to economic deterioration, while only 33.8 percent think the economy will improve.
In Gaza the co-founder of the radical Hamas movement harshly criticized Mashaal, saying his signing of a reconciliation deal that gives Abbas the additional job of prime minister that was considered a slap in the face of Hamas sentiment in the Gaza Strip.
“Handing the reins of government to Abbas is completely unacceptable,” said Mahmoud Zahar who co-founded the terrorist organization in 1987.“It’s a strategically erroneous plan.”
Hamas leaders in Gaza are furious that Mashaal and Abbas signed the deal last week in Qatar without consulting them and with none of them present, including Hamas’ prime minister in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh.
Fatah and Hamas have been violently at odds since Hamas staged a bloody coup in 2007, when they killed dozens of Fatah security officers and seized power in Gaza, while Abbas’ Fatah party controls the West Bank. Each group has imprisoned hundreds of political prisoners from the other side.
Fatah says it is committed to the peace process and Israel is calling for the immediate renewal of direct talks without preconditions. However, Abbas refuses to resume negotiations and Hamas leaders continue to reiterate that they reject the peace process and their goal is an armed conflict to replace Israel with an Islamic state.
Iranian leaders hosted Meshaal in Tehran over the weekend where Iranian Vice-President Mohammad Reza Rahimi said Iran is resolved to continue its support for the Palestinian people. Iran supports Hamas not just with anti-Israel rhetoric, but with tens of millions in dollars of support for purchasing weapons to be smuggled into the Gaza Strip.
On Sunday, Egyptian security forces seized a massive weapons cache destined for Gaza, including several tons of high explosives and anti-aircraft missiles.