Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas has now been in power for a decade (after winning a four-year term), ruling the West Bank as a dictator. Hamas, the Gaza-based terror organization, is now gaining favor in the same area. The Economist notes that whoever has control over the Palestinian people – Hamas or Abbas’ Fatah – it is not a good situation:
Campus politics offers young Palestinians their only chance to vote. Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, started a four-year term ten years ago. The legislature has not been re-elected since Hamas’s surprise victory in the 2006 ballot. So student elections are seen as bellwethers for public opinion. Candidates at Birzeit argued over the best way to fight the Israeli occupation: should they fire rockets or pursue Israel at the United Nations? The outcome was discussed for days on Palestinian television.
Hamas has ruled Gaza since 2007, while its nationalist rival, Fatah, controls the West Bank. They tried to end the split in June, when they signed a reconciliation agreement and installed a new technocratic government. The deal called for elections within six months, but Mr Abbas is dithering. Last year’s 50-day war against Israel earned Hamas new admirers in the West Bank, where the president’s Fatah movement is seen as corrupt and out-of-touch. A recent poll showed that trend reversing slightly, though his approval rating stands at just 40%; four out of five Palestinians are unhappy with the performance of the consensus government. “The outcome here is a warning to the Palestinian Authority,” said Ghassan Khatib, a vice-president of Birzeit. “The system is losing its legitimacy.”
But Hamas has concerns, too. Its popularity has slipped in Gaza, after repeated wars that have only immiserated the territory. Tens of thousands of civil servants have not been paid in nearly a year, owing to an internecine dispute over who is responsible for their salaries. A delegation of ministers travelled from Ramallah to Gaza last week to resolve the crisis, but they were barred from leaving their hotel. Their week-long visit was cut short to 24 hours.
Mr Abbas turned 80 in March. With no clear successor, he is increasingly worried about threats to his rule, both real and perceived…