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Palestinians show lukewarm reaction to Obama’s victory

PALESTINIANS reacted lukewarmly to the news of US President Barack Obama’s re-election for a second term, saying they are not hopeful this will improve their situation. On the political level, Palestinian officials called upon Obama to help in peace efforts.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas congratulated Obama on his re-election. In a statement published by WAFA, the official Palestinian news agency, Abbas said he hoped that Obama “continues his efforts to achieve peace in the Middle East.”
In Gaza, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said that this is a new phase. “Hamas calls upon Obama to reevaluate his external policies that are biased toward the Israeli occupation,” he said, adding that any change in the Palestinian and Arab mood is contingent upon the reshuffling of American foreign policies toward the Middle East.
Direct peace talks between the Palestinians and Israel have been frozen since September 2010, after Palestinians demanded a freeze in the construction of West Bank Jewish communities as a basis for negotiations.
The Palestinian president’s diplomatic advisor, Majdi Al-Khaldi, said that he hopes the new administration will support the Palestinians’ and Israelis’ return to negotiations after the United Nations General Assembly votes on a Palestinian proposal to recognize Palestine as a nonmember UN state.
“Unfortunately, the Palestinian leadership was forced to take other diplomatic and political measures to maintain the two-state solution and prove our rights in any future negations,” he added.
Khaldi said that two things have not changed: “The Israeli government is still the same, and the American Congress still has a Republican majority.” The only difference, according to Khaldi, is that this administration might have better experience in dealing with the Palestinian-Israeli issue.
Al-Quds University Media and Politics professor Ahmed Rafiq Awad told said that he does not expect any dramatic changes in the United States’ foreign policy, “When Obama tried to get involved in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, he had to pay a high price because of the Jewish and Zionist lobby in America. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also offended him a couple of times,” he added.
In the main streets of Ramallah, where Palestinian Authority employees still haven’t received their salaries as the financial crisis facing the PA deepens, most of those interviewed on Wednesday believed Obama is better than the Republican candidate Mitt Romney, but will not bring a change to their lives.
“He will not offer anything new to us because of the Congress pressure on him, but at least for us as Palestinians, Obama is better for us than Romney,” PA employee Mervat Daraghmeh said.
Muna Ali, a housewife, also agreed: “We have a saying in Arabic that goes: Those who you know are better than the ones you don’t.”
“Romney is a Zionist, he wanted to suffocate us like George [W.] Bush did,” Kamel Nayaf, a retired artist said as he strolled with his wife. She agreed with him: “Maybe he will be more active in the second term. We are not optimistic, but we are hopeful that he will improve the situation here,” she said.
In a shop close to Al-Manara Square, Sufyan Adawi, a moneychanger, said that Palestinians understood that American foreign policies are linked to the United States’ interests in the region and are not based on moral and humane grounds, “but we hope the nonexistence of a third term will make him (Obama) less afraid of the Zionist lobby.” Some Palestinians hope a second term for Obama could lead to a change in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, as the president will not be concerned with reelection.
However, political analyst Awad ruled out this possibility: “The American president knows he might be less free from the influence of the Zionist lobby, but America is run by institutions such as the army, intelligence and Congress, which limits the ability of Obama as an individual.”
Abd El Kader Hassan, a public transportation driver, believes the American election results will not change the Palestinians’ conditions: “One is black, and the other is white. This is the only difference,” he said. “I don’t follow the news,” said Mohammed Rasem, taking a pause from calling out to customers to buy from his cart full of socks and underwear. Two other young women in their early 20s said they didn’t know the election had taken place.
Nidal Arar, a cab driver from Ramallah, said he was pro-Obama: “He didn’t get involved in wars like Bush did in Iraq, and he’s a good man,” he said. Awad said he believes Obama will focus on internal American polices and expects Obama to reach out for China and Russia instead of the Middle East.
“The only way for American involvement in the region is through regional pressure exerted by the Arab and Islamic states by threatening America’s interests in the Middle East,” Awad added.

— This article was written for The Media Line.