Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, already deeply unpopular in the West Bank, is facing increasing discontent among the public over the ongoing conflict in Gaza, where his rivals, the Islamist group Hamas, are engaged in a war with Israel.
Abbas, who played a pivotal role in the 1993 Oslo peace process aimed at establishing a Palestinian state, finds himself clinging to a dialogue-based solution despite the escalating colonization by Israel, which fragments the West Bank and jeopardizes the creation of a viable Palestinian state. The surge in violence between the Israeli military and Palestinian armed groups, along with escalating attacks by Jewish settlers on civilians, has further complicated the situation.
While Abbas maintains his stance, frustration is mounting on the streets over what many perceive as his impotence against the Israeli government, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who, with the support of the far-right, adopts a hardline approach against Palestinians.
Since the conflict erupted on October 7 following an unprecedented offensive by Hamas commandos from Gaza into Israeli territory, Abbas has kept a low profile. On social media, numerous Palestinians, both Hamas supporters and non-sympathizers, celebrated what they view as a “humiliating defeat” for Israel and expressed support for Hamas, which has governed Gaza since ousting the Palestinian Authority in 2007.
According to Israeli authorities, more than 1,400 people, mostly civilians shot, burned alive, or mutilated by Hamas militants, have died in Israel since October 7. Within Gaza, approximately 4,385 people, mostly civilians, have died in relentless Israeli airstrikes, according to Hamas health authorities.
On October 16, Abbas stated that “Hamas’ policies and actions do not represent the Palestinian people,” a statement released by the official Palestinian Authority agency that sparked outrage and was later removed. The following day, the Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza was attacked, resulting in dozens of deaths initially, a toll that later rose to hundreds of fatalities. This tragedy, whose origins remain unclear, triggered protests in the West Bank.
In Ramallah’s streets, hundreds of Palestinians protested, chanting slogans like “Abbas out!” and were forcibly dispersed.
According to a survey conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research in September, before the war broke out, 78% of Palestinians supported the resignation of the 88-year-old Abbas. Additionally, 58% of respondents favored armed struggle.
To his critics, the Palestinian Authority is increasingly seen as being aligned with Israel’s policies, either due to inaction or due to its security cooperation. According to Xavier Guignard, a political scientist specializing in the Palestinian Territories at the Noria research center, the Palestinian Authority is increasingly equated with Israeli politics, either due to inaction or due to its security cooperation.
Hugh Lovatt, a researcher at the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), argues that Abbas’ position is untenable under the pressure from “the United States and Israel to take stronger measures against Hamas.” As public pressure intensifies, the Palestinian Authority finds itself in a losing position. For Omar Jatib, a young protester in Ramallah supporting Gazan Palestinians, “the resistance confronts Israel in Gaza, and here we confront the Authority, which is nothing more than a tool of the occupation to oppress us in the West Bank.”