Shikaki: Hamas' Popularity on Rise in Gaza after Tearing Down Wall with Egypt
Council on Foreign Relations
Interviewee: Khalil Shikaki, Director, Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR), Ramallah
Interviewer: Bernard Gwertzman, Consulting Editor
February 1, 2008
Khalil Shikaki, a leading Palestinian political scientist and polling expert based in the West Bank, says that Hamas, the radical Palestinian group opposed to Israel, has been losing popularity among Palestinians since it took over Gaza by force last June. But more recently, Israeli sanctions against Gaza in retaliation for the rocket attacks on Israel, and Hamas tearing down the wall separating Gaza from Egypt, have probably boosted Hamas’ popularity again, making it difficult for Hamas’ rival, Fatah, to contemplate defeating Hamas in another election.
How are the talks proceeding in Cairo between President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah-led Palestinian Authority and Hamas about getting some control over the border with Egypt and Gaza?
There doesn’t seem to be much progress. The Palestinian Authority wants to have full control over the crossing and Hamas wants to share control with it. The Egyptians will accept any agreement that the two sides can come up with because they want to make sure that Israel remains in charge of the Gaza Strip, that the strip doesn’t become solely an Egyptian problem. As long as there is no agreement then the Egyptians fear the problem will remain an Egyptian one.
Is there some talk about new Palestinian elections?
No, I don’t believe so. I don’t think new elections are likely anytime in the near future. The problem for Abbas is that essentially you can’t have early elections without Hamas agreeing to them. And because Hamas controls the Gaza Strip, I don’t think it is likely that Abu Mazen [Abbas] will hold elections only in the West Bank. Hamas isn’t likely to hold elections now because it believes it has lost some of its popularity after the Gaza takeover last June.
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