Palestinians Say Hamas and Fateh Equally Responsible for the Infighting


Fifty-nine percent of Palestinians surveyed in a 21 June 2007 poll blame Fateh and Hamas for last weeks intra-Palestinian fighting and 71 percent said they consider both groups to be the “loser.” The survey, conducted by the Ramallah-based Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR), found that while 75 percent want early presidential and parliamentary elections, 40 percent said they would not participate if the race was between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Ismail Haniyeh. Abbas would slightly edge out Hanyieh with 49 percent of the vote compared to Hanyieh’s 42 percent. The numbers change dramatically if imprisoned Fateh leader Marwan Barghouthi replaced Abbas in the race. The percentage of voter nonparticipation decreases to 31 percent and 59 percent of West Bank respondents said they would vote for Barghouthi compared to 35 percent for Haniyeh. In Gaza, 55 percent of respondents said Barghouthi was their choice compared to 41 percent who said they prefer Haniyeh. The 1270 randomly selected respondents from the West Bank and Gaza Strip were interviewed between 14 and 20 June 2007. The margin of error is 3 percent.

Public Support

The survey found that a majority are angry over the recent fighting between Hamas and Fateh and have lost confidence in their leadership and in most of the security services. Only 13 percent expressed satisfaction with Abbas’ handling of the recent events and satisfaction with his performance in general stands at 36 percent compared to 48 percent in March.

The short-lived National Unity Government received a 17 percent approval rating. The Palestinian Police Force received the approval of 58 percent of those surveyed while confidence in the Fateh-dominated Preventive Security, General Intelligence and Presidential Guard and Hamas’ Executive Force ranged between 33 percent and 37 percent. Confidence in Fateh’s al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades stood at 50 percent compared to 45 percent for Hamas’ al-Qassam Brigades.

A majority, 56 percent, support the formation of an emergency government while 38 percent oppose the move. Opposition to the emergency government is higher in Gaza with 47 percent.

However, according to the 20 June edition of the Palestinian daily Al-Ayyam, the emergency government could be in place for a long time due to the obstacles preventing the convening of Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC). The Palestinian Authority (PA) operates under the terms of an interim constitution called the "Basic Law" that was passed by the PLC in 1997 and signed into law by then President Yasser Arafat in 2002. The Basic Law empowers the president to declare a "state of emergency" and to rule according to decree, although the extent of the president’s emergency authority is limited. The main rules of the State of Emergency are stated in chapter six of the Basic Law:

Article (101)

1) The President of the National Authority may declare a state of emergency by a decree when there is a threat to national security caused by war, invasion, armed insurrection, or at a time of natural disaster for a period not to exceed thirty (30) days.

2) The emergency state may be extended for another period of thirty (30) days by securing the approval of two thirds of the Legislative Council.

3) The decree declaring a state of emergency shall state its purpose, the territory to which it applies, and its duration.

4) The Legislative Council shall have the right to review all or some of the procedures which have been implemented during the emergency state at the first session to be convened after the announcement of the state of emergency, or in the extension session whichever comes earlier, and to conduct the necessary questioning in this regard.

Article (102)

It is not allowed, when declaring a state of emergency, to impose restrictions on the basic rights and freedoms, except to the level that is necessary to achieve the objective stated in the decree of the state of emergency

Article (103)

Any arrest resultant from the declaration of emergency situation shall be subject to the following minimum requirements:

1) Any detention done in accordance with the decree of the emergency situation shall be reviewed by the Attorney General or by the concerned court during a period not exceeding fifteen (15) days from the date of detention.

2) The detained "arrested" individual shall have the right to appoint a lawyer of his choice.

Article (104)

The Palestinian Legislative Council shall not be dissolved or suspended during the emergency situation, nor shall the provisions of this chapter be suspended.

Currently, both Fateh and Hamas have the power to prevent a quorum which is needed to convene the PLC in order to grant or deny approval for an emergency government.

Early Elections

An overwhelming 75 percent expressed a desire for early presidential and parliamentary elections. The survey found that if parliamentary elections were held now, Fateh would receive 43 percent of the vote, the same percentage it scored in PSR’s March survey. However, support for Hamas drops from 37 percent in March to 33 percent today. Support for all third parties combined is 12 percent and 13 percent are undecided.

According to the 20 June 2007 edition of the Palestinian Al-Ayyam newspaper, five Palestinian political parties will submit a request to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Central Council to hold early elections. The parties are: the Palestinian Peoples Party, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), FIDA and the Popular Struggle Front.

Palestinian Options

The dissolution of the PA was not an option for 49 percent of respondents while 41 percent would welcome such a step. Among those in favor of dissolving the PA, 26 percent want the Palestinian territories placed under an international trusteeship. Forty-two percent support a confederation with Jordan. However, 17 percent of those said a confederation with Jordan should be established only after a Palestinian state was created.

In a 21 June 2007 Chicago Tribune op-ed, Palestinian-American author and analyst Ali Abunimah wrote:

There has been much talk that the events in Gaza herald the birth of a ‘three-state solution’ — Israel, plus a Hamas stronghold in Gaza and a Fatah-led West Bank. In reality, the West Bank and Gaza had already long been isolated from each other by Israeli policy. Ultimately, neither Hamas nor Fatah controls the fate of Palestinians; they remain under crushing Israeli military rule that is increasingly likened to apartheid. And just like apartheid South Africans, who cited ‘black on black’ violence, some Israelis assert that intra-Palestinian fighting proves that Palestinians are incapable of democracy. They hope that all the heat will be off Israel as it entrenches Bantustan-like separation and discrimination against non-Jews under its rule.

Dashed Hopes

Hope for establishing an independent Palestinian state does not exceed 26 percent. When asked to rank the greatest threat facing Palestinians, 56 percent cite intra-Palestinian fighting and the absence of law and order as the number one threat. Twenty-one percent believe poverty is the major threat while 12 percent point to Israeli occupation as the greatest threat. Only 10 percent cite the international boycott as a major threat to Palestinians.

There is a way out? Abunimah offers a solution in a 21 June 2007 Chicago Tribune op-ed:

Intra-Palestinian dialogue without outside interference, and South Africa or Northern Ireland-style peace talks aimed at ending all forms of military occupation, inequality and discrimination, with strong outside support, may yet save the situation. But so far there are no signs that the Bush administration will heed these obvious rudiments of peace.