The Palestinian Authority on Wednesday welcomed the reelection of US President
Barack Obama and expressed hope that it would be able to work together with his
administration to achieve a just and comprehensive peace in the Middle
Other Palestinians, however, reacted with indifference to Obama’s
victory and said that American foreign policy, which they claimed was in favor
of Israel, would remain that way, regardless of the Democratic incumbent’s
PA President Mahmoud Abbas congratulated Obama on his victory in the
election and praised him for his efforts to boost the peace process.
his letter to Obama, Abbas said that he was prepared to work with the Americans
to achieve a two-state solution and mutual respect between Palestinians and
Chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat also welcomed the results of
the election and voiced hope that the US administration would support the
Palestinians’ attempt to obtain the status of non-member state in the UN later
“Obama must stop the policy of settlements and other Israeli
violations and not the Palestinian bid at the UN,” Erekat said.
that Obama must also realize that wars won’t lead to peace and
Hamas, for its part, called on Obama to reassess his policy
toward the Palestinians.
Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar expressed hope that
Obama would change his “biased” policy in favor of Israel.
He said that
if Obama insisted on pursuing his current policy, “nothing will change in the
Sami Abu Zuhri, a spokesman for Hamas in the Gaza Strip,
said that the Palestinians and Arab and Islamic countries will judge the US on
the basis of Obama’s policy toward them.
Bassam Salhi, the
secretarygeneral of the Palestinian People’s Party, which was formerly called
the Communist Party, said he was pessimistic about Obama’s second term in
Meanwhile, a tweet by Salman al-Oudah, one of Saudi Arabia’s most
influential clerics, summed up the reaction of many in the Middle East to
Obama’s reelection: “Obama isn’t good, but he is the lesser evil.”
four years in which he largely kept Washington on the sidelines while the Arab
Spring transformed the Middle East, Obama’s reelection was met with more relief
than joy in a region that welcomed him in 2008 and still has bitter memories of
his Republican predecessor George W. Bush.
There was cautious hope that
he could reach a deal with Iran to defuse tension over its nuclear program, and
prod Israel and the Palestinians closer to reviving the frozen peace talks.
Above all, people said Obama was less likely than his Republican opponent Mitt
Romney to start another war.
“Obama was the better choice,” said Cairo
schoolboy Muhammad Gamal. “At least no war had happened in his four-year
“We hate the policies of the US and Israel, but Obama’s policies
are wiser. The only chance we have for the situation not to get worse was an
Obama victory,” a Tehran filmmaker named Amin told Reuters via
Mira, a 32-year-old dissident Iranian journalist reached by
telephone, said, “Romney seemed willing to take US foreign policy back to its
Bush-era belligerent xenophobic milieu.”
The Middle East is hardly a
region where any US president can expect effusive praise, but surveys showed
that most people there wanted Obama to win, if only because of bitter memories
of Bush and the widely resented war in Iraq.
“An Obama win was expected
and he is the best at this stage,” said Cairo doctor Muhammad el-Sanusy. “Let us
not forget that Romney is a little Bush.”
After coming to power in 2008
while promising to bring US troops home from Iraq, Obama quickly visited the
Middle East, saying he wanted to re-engage with the region and soothe anger
directed at the United States during the Bush years.
In 2009, four months
into his first term, Obama told an enthusiastic audience in Cairo that he wanted
to launch a “new beginning” in relations between the United States and countries
in the Middle East.
His Republican challenger this time around, Mitt
Romney, derided that visit as part of an “apology tour,” a tag rejected by the
But if Obama’s first election was greeted warmly in the
Middle East, his reelection four years later was met more soberly in a
tumultuous region where the Arab Spring revolts have revealed the limits of US
power to shape events.
“I have the feeling that people in the region are
not as enthusiastic as they were in 2008 about the whole American presidential
campaign,” said Saudi political analyst Khaled al-Dakheel.
“There is a
feeling that there is a marginal difference between the two regarding US policy
on the Middle East, especially after the third debate, when they focused on
On Iran, Obama initially offered unconditional talks
with Washington’s old foe, but over the past year imposed harsh sanctions in
conjunction with the European Union to try to force Iran to agree to abandon its
“Obama was a tough president for Iran’s hard-liners,
because he exposed them as the problem. His... efforts to engage Iran
accentuated Tehran’s internal divisions, and created greater international
unity,” said Karim Sadjadpour, an associate at the Carnegie Endowment for
International Peace in Washington.
But the US president, who was awarded
a Nobel Peace Prize after less than a year in office, is hardly viewed across
the Middle East as a peacenik.
In Yemen, where his administration helped
push veteran autocrat Ali Abdullah Saleh from power, Obama is largely known for
an aggressive and hugely unpopular campaign of drone strikes against al-Qaida
“On behalf of Yemenis,” tweeted Yemeni blogger and journalist
Afrah Nasser, “I urge Obama to leave our skies alone in the next four years.”