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Large majority of Palestinians 'worried' for post-Abbas era, survey finds

A mural in Ramallah depicting Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Palestinian civilians with 'the time is come to finish the occupation' written in Arabic.
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A poll released Thursday and conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR) found that a majority of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza said they were highly concerned about a collapse of internal politics should Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas be unable to perform his duties.

Abbas’ health has been a major source of speculation after he was hospitalized several times in the last year.

While the leader insisted he was in “good health” and ready to return to work after being discharged, a PA source told i24NEWS that Abbas’ health has not improved as well as he has portrayed.

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Abbas’ public standing “has improved somewhat” which may be related to sympathy following his hospitalization or appreciation for the PA’s emphatic rejection of the President Donald Trump’s so-called “deal of a century,” according to the PSR report.

Abbas and the PA froze all contact with the Trump administration following the US leader’s contentious decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and relocate the US embassy there.

The Palestinians, who claim east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state, maintain that the US unfairly sided with Israel and thus can no longer act as an impartial broker in further peace talks.

Hundreds of Palestinians marched through the streets of Ramallah in the West Bank on Monday to protest Trump’s long-promised peace proposal.

The march was organized by the Abbas-led Fatah party who called for protesters to show unified Palestinian opposition to the US peace initiative and solidarity with the Abbas government.

Protesters waved Palestinian national flags and yellow Fatah (Abbas' ruling faction of the PLO) flags, and carried placards featuring slogans vowing “the deal of the century will not pass.”

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Despite President Abbas’ recent improvements in public standing, over 60 of the Palestinian public demand that Abbas resign and stand “decisively against Abbas’ domestic policies,” according to the PSR report.

An equal percentage reportedly believe that “in the case of Abbas’ absence, the Speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council, Aziz al Duwaik from Hamas, must become president for two months in implementation of the Basic Law.”

54 percent of Palestinians in the West Bank and 73 percent in the Gaza Strip believe Abbas should resign. By contrast, three months ago 62 percent of “West Bankers” and 81 percent of Gazans demanded his resignation.

Palestinians in Ramallah have defied protest bans in recent weeks in rare shows of opposition to the government, calling for Abbas to end measures against Gaza meant to pressure Hamas, but which critics say harm the two million residents.

Hamas seized the blockaded coastal enclave from the Abbas-led PA in a 2007 near civil war.

The PA has introduced a series of measures against Gaza in the past year, while it has not paid full salaries to tens of thousands of its civil servants in the Strip for months.

“An overwhelming majority (79 percent) demand the immediate halt to all measures taken by Abbas against the Gaza Strip and opposes the crackdown on demonstrations demanding an end to these measures,” it said.

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Despite various measures pointing to widespread public dissatisfaction with governmental efficacy - including activities of the Palestinian National Council (PNC) and the Executive Committee of the PLO - a majority of Palestinians still see the PLO “as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people,” the report notes.

Abbas’ demand that Hamas relinquish control of the Gaza Strip to make way for the reconciliation government - “including ministries, the security sectors, and the ‘arms’” - is opposed by a majority of Palestinians, though a majority also support the unification of all PA institutions under the control of the reconciliation government.

Abbas' Fatah faction has been at loggerheads with Islamist Hamas, who rule Gaza, since Palestinian elections in 2006. The latest in a string of reconciliation attempts crumbled late last year and the PA has attempted to undermine Hamas by turning the economic screws on Gaza.

In an effort to counteract the Trump administration’s recent initiatives in the region ahead of the anticipated “deal of a century,” Abbas is trying to form a new national unity government with Hamas, Arabic-language Asharq al-Awsat newspaper reported Monday.

Various PA officials have expressed that Trump’s “deal of the century” is an effort to divide Palestinians.

Top negotiator Saeb Erekat referred to the plan as an attempted “coup,” aimed at further separating Gazans from Palestinians in the West Bank.

Whether or not outrage against Trump’s peace plan will catalyze a successful reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas has yet to be seen.

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