July 16, 2007

Hamas Support Melting Away

The degree of the self-inflicted catastrophe that Hamas created with its rebellion has come into clearer focus after polling Gaza voters. The territory used to serve as Hamas' political power base, but now a plurality of voters support their rival, Fatah. Even worse, two-thirds of previous Hamas voters would not repeat that mistake:

The violent takeover of the Gaza Strip has cost Hamas some support there and bolstered its rival, Fatah, according to a poll released Sunday.

Hamas swept through Gaza last month, vanquishing numerically superior forces aligned with Fatah leader and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, who responded by dismissing the Hamas-led government and installing a new one with his backers.

The poll of Gaza residents shows a backlash. Hamas got only 23 percent support, down from 29 percent in the previous survey last month, while Fatah climbed from 31 percent to 43 percent.

The poll, the first major survey since the Hamas takeover, also showed that 66 percent of Hamas supporters said they would vote Fatah if it undertook reforms.

On one level, this poll is irrelevant. Hamas didn't conduct a coup to hold an election, which Gazans apparently have just discovered. An increasing awareness of Hamas' "authoritarian" nature is one of the reasons for the disaffection in the poll, which should have come as no surprise to anyone who knows the track record of radical Islamist movements.

Mostly, though, Gazans have reacted to the pragmatic reality around them. Gaza's economy had tanked before the coup, thanks to their election of an unrepentant terrorist group to power. It has declined sharply from that point since the coup. While the Gazans see aid returning to the Hamas-less West Bank, the closing of commercial crossings at Karni and Rafah have cut deeply into their finances. The World Bank estimates that Gaza has lost $20.6 million in a single month due to the disappearance of Fatah security at Karni. Israel won't reopen Karni with masked Hamas gunmen staffing security positions on the other side.

The resulting price hikes and food shortages will only get worse as a result, and the only way to change that will be to get rid of Hamas. Egypt won't open Rafah to any great degree for the same security reasons as Israel. Gaza can't get shipments anywhere else; the Israel military controls Gaza's coastline.

As a result, Fatah has become much more popular in Gaza than ever before. They have almost double the support of Hamas, although interestingly one-third of Gazans support neither party. Mahmoud Abbas has an almost two-to-one advantage over former PM Ismail Haniyeh in voter trust, 63-37. Even more significantly, Sallam Fayed -- the new PM that Hamas declared illegitimate -- has a 62-38 advantage in trust among Gaza voters.

Hamas made a huge mistake with the Gaza coup. They allowed themselves to get isolated in governing and showed what a disaster they are in that position. Not only did the coup itself discredit them as rebels, but the aftermath will discredit them for years, if not longer, as political leaders. The West needs to keep Gaza isolated until the Gazans end Hamas' rule themselves.


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Comments (16)

Posted by K T Cat | July 16, 2007 7:16 AM

Gaza's economy has tanked? The place has an annual per capita income below $1000. What did they do, lose track of all the blown up trash they'd been living on?

Posted by JabbaTheTutt | July 16, 2007 7:20 AM

Since the Hamas takeover, there's been almost no news out of Gaza, except for the release of the BBC reporter/friend of the Palestinians, Alan Johnston.

I've been wondering, what's happening within Gaza. There's still not much info here.

Posted by hermie | July 16, 2007 7:22 AM

I'm waiting for Hillary, Obama or Pelosi to wade in on this; demanding that the President 'engage' Hamas in talks, and to condemn Israel for all the 'damage' they 'caused'.

Posted by RyaninZion | July 16, 2007 7:27 AM

This is likely just Fatah propaganda, but even if it is true, those numbers will not last. Even if Fatah did regain power in Gaza, the locals would quickly remember why they all voted Hamas last year - rampant Fatah corruption.

Besides, when and if elections are ever held again, the group that has managed to kill the most Jews will still have the best chance of winning. Since neither party is capable of actually governing, that is the only accepted measure of success.

Posted by Grumpy Old Man | July 16, 2007 8:09 AM

I can't rejoice of the misery of over a million ordinary people, even if they have chosen a horrid leadership.

Here they are, locked in a giant prison yard. Are their babies at fault?

Is there a solution? Not at all clear to me.

Posted by richard mcenroe | July 16, 2007 9:25 AM

"The West needs to keep Gaza isolated until the Gazans end Hamas' rule themselves."

The question is, does Hamas have more ammo than subjects?

Posted by Lew | July 16, 2007 9:31 AM

That's why its so important to behave and choose wisely; because as an adult, there are so many voiceless and choiceless ones for whom you have assumed responsibility. They too will suffer the rightful consequences of your choosing, and very often when you choose badly there will be no way to make it right and no chance to apologize. They're dead!

Some days, life just sucks!

Posted by Fat Man | July 16, 2007 10:25 AM

"Is there a solution? Not at all clear to me."

Yes, they can lay down their arms, and sue for peace.

Posted by Carol Herman | July 16, 2007 10:30 AM

Arabs, in general, never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

And, they also beat their wives, senseless.

As to what's ahead, who knows? Because the days of olive branches, and peace, are over. Meanwhile, they got ocean front property, over there, in gazoo. Let's see what they can do with it, now? They've got enough bullets for plenty of celebrations.

These loons also intermarry with cousins. That's how you can get a Dogmush clan that has 9000 relatives in it.

So, now they like Abbas better than what?

Posted by Lurking Observer | July 16, 2007 11:03 AM

For those who whine that not supporting Hamas equates with not supporting democracy, it's a useful reminder that choices have consequences, and no one has an automatic claim to support.

The best example being the election of Jorg Haider in Austria. It would be hard to argue that Austria is a terrorist state, or that Haider's party, which was extremely right-wing but legal and not associated with terrorist acts, was the equivalent of Hamas.

Yet, that did not keep the EU from pressuring Austria and making it clear that not only was Haider unacceptable, but so was his party. And they, to their credit, stepped away from the levers of power, for the good of the nation.

Would that Gaza (or the Palestinians in general) had statesmen as well as politicians.

Posted by Lily | July 16, 2007 11:17 AM

Is there a solution? Not at all clear to me.

In order to receive "aide" Hamas was told they must,renounce terrorism, recognize Israel's right to exist and honor prior agreements. There's the solution and Hamas chose to reject it. Choices have consequences which Hamas and it Palestinian supporters are finding out.

Posted by Achillea | July 16, 2007 11:48 AM

Are their babies at fault?

Their babies are the responsibility of their parents. It's the Palestinian adults' job to do what they have to to take care of them. Unfortunately, said adults apparently view them as bullet shields and walking bombs rather than young lives they're responsible for protecting and nurturing.

Posted by AM Edition | July 16, 2007 12:29 PM

Their babies are the responsibility of their parents. It's the Palestinian adults' job to do what they have to to take care of them.

Explain again how to make the decision between staying put in a cross between a war zone and a prison camp, and leaving behind what little you do have to try (and typically fail miserably) to cross the border so you can squat in a hostile neighboring country. In both cases, you'll likely be in abject poverty. And remember: your children's lives are at stake.

The depth of your empathy is astounding.

Posted by naftali | July 16, 2007 12:50 PM

If this is true, then Hamas can only do one thing. And this is their version of strategy (and who are we to question it thus far, it's been pretty effective for them): they must more strictly enforce their interpretation of Islamic law, then they must take over the West Bank and take the money from Iran. Does this sound at all analogous to 1966, when Israel was receiving aid from France and the Arab world was receiving aid from the Soviet Union? Too bad this war isn't going cold.

Posted by patrick neid | July 16, 2007 6:28 PM

To the naysayers who said democracy doesn't work and Bush was reaping what he sowed when hamas got elected, this is exactly how it works. People often vote for candidates only to find they made a mistake--think carter. Then after the appropriate amount of pain and suffering they vote differently next time.

"Next time" will be coming to Palestinians in the not to distant future. They may make a mistake again. The process will then repeat. at some point they will get it right. Meanwhile other democracies will choose to deal with their choices or not to.

Posted by fiona | July 16, 2007 8:31 PM

Israel monitors a basket of 39 items of food - there is no shortage and prices are not rising. UN and European and US donors are flooding the market with food and medical supplies. Who is hurting? Private sector business people who are having to shut down due to cessation of trade. It could get worse - since Hamas has a stranglehold on the distribution of supplies, if they become short, expect some retribution to take place.