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Palestinian reactions to the US elections

by Tamara Kashou

Between hope and reservation

The US presidential elections on November 6, 2012 have been closely monitored by Palestinians and widely discussed in the street. Most of the Palestinians believe that the re-election of Barack Obama sends a more positive message to the Palestinians than had Mitt Romney been elected.

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This report will focus on what the Palestinians and their leadership do expect from US President Barack Obama’s second presidential term, given the United States’ role as a crucial player in the region and the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. It will do so by presenting statements in the media.

In a joint Palestinian/Israeli poll by the „Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research“ and Israeli Harry S. Truman Research Institute published in September 2012, 51% of the Palestinians thought that if Obama won the US Presidential elections, his victory would have no impact on Palestinian conditions, 32% thought it would have a negative impact, and 9% believed it would have a positive impact.

According to the British daily „The Guardian“ on Monday November 5, 2012, Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestinian Liberation Organization executive committee said that “Obama is not a savior, and Romney will not be a devil, neither one is a free agent; there is a US policy of bias and support of Israel”.

Would there be any change in the US foreign policy with the re-elected US President? The answer remains unknown, as President Barack Obama would become the second Democrat to be in office for eight years following Bill Clinton since World War II. What is sure is that the Republican candidate Mitt Romney offended the Palestinians by suggesting during a visit to Israel in July 2012 that cultural differences accounted for the weakness of their economy compared with Israel.

The Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas expressed “hope that re-elected US President Barack Obama would continue his efforts to achieve peace in the Middle East” according to a statement issued by the official news agency „WAFA“ after the results.

On the other hand, Mohammed Shtayyah, aide to Mahmoud Abbas, said according to „CBS news“ on Thursday November 7, 2012 that “President Obama has spent four years in office; unfortunately he hasn't done much for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. On the other hand, we have seen Romney making statements that are really not helpful at all in the peace process, very biased toward the issue of Israel.” He continued to explain that concerning foreign policy, “Israel was mentioned 32 times; there was no mention whatsoever of the Palestinian-Israeli peace process, so it seems to us really we have to choose between the bad and the worst."

In Gaza City, the Hamas government called on Obama just after the results to re-evaluate his foreign policy concerning the Palestinians, and to end his bias towards Israel. Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri told „Ma'an news agency“ on Wednesday November 7, 2012 that “any change in opinion by the Arab and Islamic world concerning the United States would depend on whether Obama rebalanced US foreign policy towards the region's issues”.

The commentary published on Thursday November 8, 2012 in Al-Quds newspaper titled “We… And Obama in his second term”, highlighted Obama’s gap between promise and delivery in the Middle East diplomacy, suggesting it might change now that Obama is less constrained to press the Palestinian issue if he chooses.

Hence, this press review summarizes the Palestinians’ pessimism over the re-election of US President Barack Obama, with a glimps of hope that his second term will be more promising in terms of a solution to the Palestinian/Israeli conflict.

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