Palestinians hoping Washington relations will be restored if Biden wins

Most see a bleak future if Trump pulls off surprise victory: ‘He will accept nothing less than our surrender’

US PRESIDENT Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden debate in Cleveland, Ohio, on Tuesday. (photo credit: BRIAN SNYDER / REUTERS)
US PRESIDENT Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden debate in Cleveland, Ohio, on Tuesday.
(photo credit: BRIAN SNYDER / REUTERS)
As Americans head to the polls on Tuesday, the world is watching.
In the Palestinian territories, many feel the results will have a direct impact on their lives.
Ahmed Rafiq Awad, president of the Jerusalem Center for Future Studies at Al-Quds University, told The Media Line that this time the Palestinians are attentively following the US presidential election.
“Palestinian media is covering the US election closely and in great detail. It’s involved emotionally because of [President Donald] Trump’s decisions. The Palestinians regard Trump as Israel’s ‘foreign minister,’” Awad says.
Nour Odeh, a political analyst in the West Bank, also told The Media Line that Trump’s policies toward the Palestinians have a lot to do with the broad interest in the race.
“The Trump Administration has destroyed much of the hope they were hanging on to. There’s a lot of interest in how Americans vote,” she says.
Palestinians almost unanimously condemn the policies of the incumbent. Under Trump, the US recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moved its embassy there from Tel Aviv. Washington also suspended millions of dollars of annual financial aid to the PA and ordered the Palestine Liberation Organization office in the American capital shuttered.
In response, the Palestinian Authority cut off communication with the White House. The PA views east Jerusalem as the future capital of a Palestinian state.
“This last four years has seen an onslaught against the Palestinians. Trump has fulfilled a wish list for Israel that they could never have imagined,” says Palestinian-American business consultant Sam Bahour. “I don’t know what else they could ask him to do. It’s been devastating for the Palestinians.”
Palestinians believe this election is not only about American domestic policy but will directly affect what happens to them in the coming years.
Awad insist the PA is eager to restore friendlier relations with Washington.
“As far as I can say, the Palestinian street, and the official Palestinian side, prefer [former vice president Joe] Biden,” he adds.
Bahour says a Biden administration will restore the US traditional stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“I believe that if Biden wins, first and foremost the hemorrhaging damage that has been going on the last four years may stop or slow down. Positive in itself,” he says.
After a promising start under Trump four years ago, the relationship with Washington soured. Palestinians feel he has treated them unfairly. Now, they are holding their breath awaiting the outcome of the election.
The Palestinians have made no secret of their desire to see a new American president in office. They see it as an opportunity to restore the relationship with the United States.
Awad concedes, however, that Biden’s approach is in line with previous US administrations regarding the Palestinian issue.
“We know that Biden supports Israel and Israel’s security, but he believes in a two-state solution.”
Odeh agrees, saying Palestinians are not delusional about where Biden and his running mate, Senator Kamala Harris, stand on the issue.
“There’s a very clear understanding in Palestine that Biden is a committed Zionist; we know what his track record is. There are no illusions here about what a Biden administration can deliver to Palestinians,” Odeh continues. But she says Biden will approach the matter with a different attitude. “At least it will be a break from this confrontation, hostility, the toxic atmosphere that Trump has brought.”
Still, the former Palestinian Authority spokeswoman has a warning for her fellow Palestinians: Don’t get your hopes up too high.
“Biden is not going to be the messiah for Palestinians; quite frankly, the interest in a Biden victory in Palestine stems from the fact that President Trump is so terrible. There are no illusions here about what a Biden administration can deliver to Palestinians,” Odeh says.
It will take a lot of effort to build trust with a Biden administration, she adds.
“It’s not going to be easy to initiate dialogue with a Biden administration if Biden wins. Any administration will need years to undo the damage Trump has done in the Middle East.”
On the other hand, Odeh says Palestinians should not bother reinitiating dialogue with Trump if he wins.
“It’s a waste of time because Donald Trump will accept nothing less than absolute surrender and humiliation.”
Many Palestinians foresee a similarly bleak scenario if Trump wins.
“If there is to be another four years of President Trump, most likely we’re going to see an outbreak of violence here,” Odeh says.
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