Could Hamas chief win control of Palestinian Authority?

Amid talk of new PA elections in exchange for returning control of Gaza to PA, poll finds Hamas chief would defeat Abbas in vote.

David Rosenberg,

Ismail Haniyeh
Ismail Haniyeh
Flash 90

Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh would defeat incumbent Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas if new elections were held today, a new poll finds, in the midst of a surge in terror attacks by the Gaza-based group.

The Palestinian Authority last held general elections in 2006, and the Hamas terror organization has long demanded that the ruling Fatah party, based in Ramallah, permit new elections.

Hamas, which broke away from the PA to take control of the Gaza Strip, signed a comprehensive reconciliation agreement with Abbas’ Fatah faction last October.

The deal, which was to have been implemented beginning last December, would have returned administrative control of the Gaza Strip to the Palestinian Authority’s leadership in Ramallah, in exchange for the formation of a unity government including Hamas, as well as new general elections, and a resumption of PA payments to Gaza.

While the agreement was never implemented, Hamas leaders reportedly offered late last month to surrender control of the Gaza Strip in exchange for new elections.

If elections were held, a new poll suggests that Hamas would defeat Fatah for control of the Palestinian Authority.

The survey, conducted by Khalil Shikaki, found that in a leadership election, Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh would defeat Abbas, 49 to 42.

The poll, released on Tuesday, was conducted following a wave of terror attacks by Hamas against Israeli targets. The survey polled 1,200 residents of Gaza, Judea and Samaria.

Last month, Hamas launched hundreds of rockets on southern Israel, before the Israeli government accepted a ceasefire agreement brokered by Egypt.

A week ago, seven Israelis were wounded in a drive-by shooting attack carried out by Hamas. Days later, two Israelis were killed and two more wounded in a similar shooting attack north of Jerusalem.

Shikaki attributed the Hamas leader’s edge in the poll to the popular perception among Palestinian Authority residents that the Gaza-based terror group had won in its latest confrontation with Israel.

Earlier this year, the 83-year-old Abbas was reelected as chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s executive committee, a position he has held for 13 years.