Monday, January 12, 2009

The View from Palestine: Mahmud Abbas Weakened by Israeli Assault

Gulf News, January 12, 2009 - At the start of Israel's invasion, Abbas, widely known as Abu Mazen, said the territory's Hamas rulers were at least partly to blame, because they provoked Israel with constant rocket fire.

Many West Bankers, even those who oppose Hamas' violent ideology, view the war in Gaza as an assault on all Palestinians. Israel says it's targeting Hamas strongholds in Gaza, but hundreds of civilians have also been killed.

"When it comes to Israel, we are all Hamas," said Nablus resident, Hanan Izzat, 42.

Abbas' security forces have been trying to contain pro-Gaza rallies in the West Bank, fearing Hamas will turn them into vehicles of revolt against Abbas. Hamas wrested control of Gaza from Abbas' forces in June 2007....

Khalil Shekaki, a respected Palestinian pollster, said he has no updated surveys on Abbas' approval ratings since the Gaza crisis, but that there are signs that Hamas' popularity in the West Bank is on the rise.

"The big political loser in this [Gaza war] is Abbas,"
said Robert Blecher of the International Crisis Group, a research centre.

The outpouring of sympathy for Hamas comes at a time when Abbas' own legitimacy is being questioned. Abbas was elected to a four-year term in January 2005, and Hamas says his presidency ended on January 9.

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