- By Marc Lynch
Marc Lynch is associate professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University, where he is the director of the Institute for Middle East Studies and of the Project on Middle East Political Science. He is also a non-resident senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security. He is the author of The Arab Uprising (March 2012, PublicAffairs).
He publishes frequently on the politics of the Middle East, with a particular focus on the Arab media and information technology, Iraq, Jordan, Egypt, and Islamist movements.
I’ve just seen the first public opinion survey carried out in the West Bank and Gaza since the war, and the results are about what you’d expect: Hamas has gained politically and Fatah has declined. Since I haven’t seen it reported anywhere yet, here are the main findings of the survey carried out by the Jerusalem Media and Communications Center between January 29-31:
- Who won? 9.8% said Israel, 46.7% said Hamas, and 37.4% said neither. Interesting: Gazans were more likely to say "neither" (48.4%) and West Bankers more likely to say "Hamas" (53.3%)
- Were Palestinians convinced by the Israeli argument that Palestinian civilians were killed because Hamas was hiding among them? No. Only 5.1% in the West Bank and 5.9% overall agreed with that, while 72% blamed Israel for targeting civilians.
- Who is to blame? 76.8% say that Israel was planning to launch the war, and that Palestinians could not have avoided it.
- What about America’s role? 2.8% were satisfied, within the 3% margin of error.
- Will Obama make a difference? 28.1% are more optimistic since the inauguration, 18.9% more pessimistic, and 48.2% say it will make no difference.
- The winners in inter-Arab politics: Qatar and the Muslim Brotherhood. The most popular Arab actor by far was Qatar: 68.3% were satisfied with its role. Iran, by comparison, satisfied only 55.9% — and did better in the West Bank (64.4%) than in Gaza (41.4%), while Turkey satisfied 89.6% (consistent with the pro-Erdogan demonstrations in Gaza the other day). 57.6% were satisfied with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood.
- The less winners in inter-Arab politics: Egypt and Jordan (and presumably Saudi Arabia). 35.1% were satisfied and 64% were dissatisfied with Egypt’s role; 41.7% were satisfied with Jordan’s role. Amazingly, the survey did not report findings about satisfaction with Saudi Arabia for reasons which may be self-evident but are all the more worth speculating about.
- Palestinian winners and losers? Fatah President Mahmoud Abbas didn’t fare well: 13.2% very satisfied, 49.9% very dissatisfied; adding in the "somewhat" responses gives Mahmoud Abbas a rating of 33.6% satisfaction. Gazans were marginally more satisfied than West Bankers (39.7% to 30%). Isma’il Haniya of Hamas is now the most trusted figure in Palestinian politics, with 21.1%, followed by Abbas with 13.4%. But perhaps the main tell: "Don’t trust anyone" is the runaway winner with 31.1%. If Parliamentary elections were held today, Hamas now enjoys a slim lead over Fatah, 28.6% to 27.9%. Hamas support is up from 19.3% last April.
- And of course, the violence. Support for using locally-made rockets has increased from 39.3% in April to 50.8%, and support for military operations against Israeli targets is up from 49.5% to 53.5%. 41% now oppose peace negotiations, compared to 34.7% last year.
Arguments may now proceed along predictable lines as to the validity of the survey research in such a difficult environment, its importance, and the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.