“Most Palestinians want the (kidnapped Israeli) kids to be alive and to be found,” Dr. Nabil Kukali, the founder and President of the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion, told The Media Line in an exclusive interview. “This will help the Palestinian cause,” he said.
Dr. Kukali spoke with The Media Line about the kidnapping, the respective strengths of Fatah and Hamas; and predictions for the unity elections due to be held within a matter of months.
Is there a belief among Palestinians that Hamas is not responsible for the abduction of the three Israeli teenagers?
"You know, I didn’t do a poll for that, but from my point of view, Hamas is not part of that ... Maybe people who are not happy with what Hamas did with Palestinian unity - they want to do something; but I don’t think Hamas is a part of that. If Hamas wants to do things like that, why did they go for the unity with the PA? I don’t think so. Hamas wants the elections, they want the Palestinian unity, they want to open the border for free crossing with Egypt ... this is my point of view."
Will the Israeli campaign against Hamas strengthen or weaken the Islamist movement?
Kukali: They (the Israelis) are helping Hamas get more popular. What is going on now is to the benefit of Hamas.
So what is the forecast regarding the kidnapping?
"First of all, I think the Palestinians want the kids to be alive and to be found. And hope they are still alive…that’s very important…this will help the Palestinians and the Palestinian cause. It’s very important that they be alive and come back to their homes and families."
If the Israeli boys are not alive, then what is the scenario?
"If they are killed, the Palestinians will lose a lot of international support. But (Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu knows that the people who did that do not get any support from the Palestinian Authority. And Abu Mazen said these people try to destroy the Palestinians. They are minority of less than one per cent. The world will understand that we are not with the kidnapping of the three kids."
Dr. Kukali, recently there were demonstrations in Jenin where Palestinian leaders called for children to be shahids (martyrs). How can the Palestinians be unified when some are calling for violence and some are calling for non-violence?
"We don’t want to have events where it’s only a minority of people and we generalize it to the whole population. No one will agree on everything. There is nothing with 100 per cent agreement: some people agree and some people disagree ... So we can’t generalize for the Palestinian people what happened in Jenin or for example in Hebron ... In general, the Palestinians are in favor of making peace with Israel and believe Abu Mazen is the guy who can make peace with Israel."
Israel has been against a unity government, Fatah with Hamas. What does that do to any kind of peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians?
"First of all, the one who runs the negotiations with the Israelis is not the government itself. The one who runs the negotiations with Israel is the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization). We should be careful about that. The unity government is not in charge of political issues; only to run the Palestinian society, not to negotiate with the Israelis. And the majority of this government, they support the peace process and they support Abu Mazen – some of them are independent ... I think the Israelis made a mistake because these people are not Hamas. And I think the Palestinians should have new elections. If we don’t have a unified government it means we will never go for elections. Hamas last time just won the election by chance – people were tired of the old regimes from the PA; they were tired of corruption and wanted change and they thought Hamas was much better but now they discovered that Hamas is not what they wished to have. And Fatah will win the elections."
In 2006, Hamas won the election; Fatah was blamed for corruption and Hamas provided social services which ensured that vote. Has the dynamic changed?
"According to our polls, yes. I think that if we have elections today, and Fatah planned and organized, Fatah will win the election."
"Now I think it’s time for a change and especially in Gaza. Palestinians in Gaza have been under Hamas control and now they know Hamas very well and are disappointed in Hamas. And I don’t think they will have the majority as they used to. In Gaza, I think Hamas has lost its good position. And now as Palestinians in particular and Arabs in general we don’t believe in the Muslim Brotherhood to control them. We have a lot of extremists now in Libya, Tunisia and Egypt, and people are disappointed in them."
Dr. Kukali, do you have any data that backs this up?
"Yes, I just published a poll within the past two weeks that showed support for Fatah at around 36% and Hamas around 16%; and we did it in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. There are 13 Palestinian political parties, but many people will vote as independents. I expect about 3% will vote Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and many won’t vote."
Do you see Hamas winning in any other area, like the parliamentary election?
"It depends on Fatah. If Fatah divides many candidates for the elections like it did in the last elections, Fatah will lose. But if they have become united, and they have only one list, they will win the election."
Article written by Felice Friedson.
Reprinted with permission from The Media Line.