TEL AVIV – If an election were held today, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas would be replaced by Marwan Barghouti, a Palestinian terrorist leader jailed for life by Israel on multiple murder charges, a new survey released on Wednesday found.
Thirty percent of respondents said Barghouti, a member of Abbas’ Fatah faction, was their favorite to replace the president.
Barghouti was the mastermind behind many of the terror attacks committed by Fatah’s armed wing, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, during the Second Intifada. Convicted in 2004, he is serving five life sentences on five counts of murder and one count of attempted murder.
Barghouti is viewed by Palestinians as a pragmatist and has been very politically active from behind bars. He has maintained good ties with all factions, including the Gaza-ruling terror group Hamas, and as such is seen as the right candidate to bridge frayed relations between the two rivals.
The poll showed that the next most popular candidate was Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh, with 23 percent support.
Since Abbas’ hospitalization in May, which lasted more than a week, speculation has been rife regarding his successor.
Abbas, 83, has had several hospitalizations in recent years. Palestinian officials said the May spell was due to pneumonia, but since then the PA president continues to visit the hospital twice a week.
At the time, Abbas blamed the hospitalization on President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and the subsequent opening of the U.S. embassy there.
Abbas was elected to a four-year term in 2005 but has remained in office nine years after his term expired and has not held elections since.
PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and former Gaza Fatah leader Mohammad Dahlan come next according to the survey, with 6 percent support each. They are followed by West Bank activist Mustafa Barghouti and former Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal (3 percent each), and ex-finance minister Salam Fayyad (2 percent).
Jibril Rajoub, a former security chief widely considered to be a possible successor for the presidency, was not mentioned.
The poll, conducted by the Ramallah-based Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research (PCPSR), interviewed 2,150 adults in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.