“From Gaza to Jenin” and “With our soul and our blood, we will redeem you, Hamas,” were among the chants shouted by the large crowds in the West Bank who gathered to welcome the Palestinian prisoners released from Israeli jails in the four-day cease-fire deal between Israel and Hamas. Under the deal, 150 Palestinian prisoners were to be freed in exchange for 50 Israeli women and children captured by Hamas during its Oct. 7 attack in Israel.
Many held green Hamas flags and chanted pro-Hamas slogans as they embraced the freed Palestinian prisoners. The images of the large, young, vocal crowds have concerned the Palestinian Authority as it battles to stay relevant.
The Islamist Hamas movement that dominates the Gaza Strip has seen its popularity spike among all Palestinians since Oct. 7. In the West Bank, only a small minority have a favorable view of the PA, which is generally deeply unpopular in the areas where it has control and which is seen as a subcontractor to the prolonged Israeli occupation.
One of the unintended consequences of the war in Gaza is Hamas’ rising appeal in the West Bank, something that can be attributed to frustration with the lack of a political horizon in diplomacy between PA President Mahmoud Abbas and Israel.
“I came out here to celebrate the release of the prisoners and show my support for the resistance,” university student Yazan Abdallah said.
Abdallah said he grew up surrounded by Fatah supporters, including his father and uncles. Still, he said that Fatah, the most prominent and oldest Palestinian faction that dominates the PA, has lost its “compass.”
“Fatah used to believe in resistance and liberation, but that has disappeared, and all its leaders worry about is protecting their interests,” he said. “As far as we are concerned, Hamas is the leader of the Palestinian people.”
The dramatic surge in Palestinian support for Hamas is described as an unintended consequence of the Israeli military operation in Gaza. Recent polls found a steep drop in support for Abbas, who was marginalized by the war but is seen internationally as a partner for reviving the long-defunct peace process.
“He hasn’t delivered on his promise. He adopted this popular peaceful resistance with no results. It’s time he vacated his seat,” restaurant worker Mohiyee Eid, 25, told The Media Line.
People see the Palestinian leadership as “ineffective” and “doing everything to stay in power at any cost,” Eid said. “My generation lost hope in a political solution, and we reject this endless occupation, and Hamas and other factions in Gaza have the answer.”
Under Abbas, the PA is considered an authoritarian, corrupt, and undemocratic political entity ruled by a group of self-serving figures.
“They have been negotiating forever without any results. Look at Hamas, look at what they did in this short time. They forced Israel to accept an exchange of prisoners,” Amani, a mother of four who was in downtown Ramallah on Sunday evening awaiting the arrival of the freed Palestinian prisoners said.
“I’m not Hamas, but I support their actions. People want results,” she said. The latest round of violence is putting pressure on both Abbas and the Fatah party he heads.
“Abbas destroyed Fatah, and look at how popular Hamas has become,” Amani said.
Hamas triumphed in the last Palestinian parliamentary election, held in 2006. New elections have been repeatedly postponed since Hamas seized power from Fatah in Gaza in a brief 2007 civil war.
- The story is written by Mohammad al-Kassim and reprinted with permission from The Media Line.