Any debate about Israel and the Palestinians invariably arrives at a basic question: What do the Palestinians want? A lot gets said in response. Most of it, as far as I can tell, confuses western hopes about the Palestinians with the actual beliefs of the Palestinians.

One can say such things with some confidence: the West Bank and Gaza are two of the more frequently polled places in the world. And the latest poll finds that Hamas’s popularity has increased substantially in recent months, across a range of issues. The report, from the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, is available here. Among the highlights:

If new presidential elections were to take place today, [PA President] Mahmud Abbas and [Hamas leader] Ismail Haniyeh would receive almost equal number of votes, 46% for Abbas and 47% for Haniyeh. Abbas’s popularity stood at 56% and Haniyeh’s at 37% last December. . . .

Findings show depreciation in the legitimacy of [PA Prime Minister] Fayyad’s government and a significant rise in public perception of the legitimacy of Haniyeh’s government. 49% say Haniyeh should stay in office as Prime Minister while 45% say he should not. Last September only 40% said Haniyeh should stay as prime minister. By contrast, today only 38% say Fayyad’s government should stay in office and 55% say it should not. Support for Fayyad’s government stood at 49% last September. Similarly, 34% say Haniyeh’s government is the legitimate Palestinian government and only 29% say Fayyad’s government is the legitimate one. [Emphasis mine]

Over the past year, many people (including yours truly) imagined that Hamas’s treatment of Gaza was so brutal, and its rocket war against Israel so misguided, that ordinary Palestinians would discover the limits of their tolerance for thuggery masquerading as “resistance.” I was wrong. The depressing truth remains: as has been demonstrated in so many previous polls, Palestinian public opinion rewards those who most conspicuously demonstrate their dedication to violence against Israel, not those who desire peace.

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