Former PA foreign minister marks 'salvation' from Trump era

Palestinians celebrate Trump’s defeat: ‘An evil has distanced itself from us’

Ramallah and Gaza leaders euphoric about loathed incumbent’s loss, though unsure how a Biden administration will advance their cause

Palestinians protest against US President Donald Trump's so-called Deal of the Century, in the West Bank city of Hebron, February 22, 2019. (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90)
Palestinians protest against US President Donald Trump's so-called Deal of the Century, in the West Bank city of Hebron, February 22, 2019. (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90)

Palestinians hailed the defeat of US President Donald Trump in glowing terms on Saturday night, with some calling it the end of “the worst era” for the Palestinian cause.

“There has never been anything worse than the Trump era. Salvation from it is an achievement,” said Nabil Shaath, a key aide to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, and a former PA foreign minister

Senior Palestinian Liberation Organization official Hanan Ashrawi cheered what she called a “detrumped” United States.

“Trumpism must be carefully scrutinized & remedied to restore the human, moral & legal equilibrium within and beyond the US. Such phenomena do not emerge from a vacuum.”

Palestine Liberation Organization executive committee member Hanan Ashrawi. (AFP/Abbas Momani)

“Now is the time for holistic & bold therapeutics,” Ashrawi said in a statement.

Palestinian demonstrators chant slogans during a protest against US President Donald Trump’s expected peace plan proposal in the Bureij refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip on January 28, 2020. (Photo by MAHMUD HAMS / AFP)

Palestinian Authority officials had been openly hoping for Trump to be defeated by challenger Joe Biden, who was confirmed as president-elect on Saturday. The PA has consistently charged that the Trump administration was lopsidedly biased toward Israel, and severed all dealings with it after it recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December 2017. The Trump administration saw Ramallah as intransigent and unwilling to compromise.

Nabil Shaath, the Commissioner for External Relations of the Fatah movement, seen in his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah, January 18, 2012 (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Nabil Shaath (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Shaath’s statement, much like Ashrawi’s, did not congratulate Biden, however. In an interview with The Times of Israel before the November election, Shaath had said that much about Biden’s position on the Palestinian cause was “still unclear.”

Palestinians were angered by what they considered lopsided Trump support for Israel, including the Jerusalem recognition and the subsequent US decision to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a peace plan which they contended did not provide them with a state, and deep cuts to US aid to Ramallah.

“If we are going to live another four years with President Trump, God help us… and the whole world,” PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh publicly remarked before the elections.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks while US President Donald Trump listens before a meeting at the Palace Hotel during the 72nd United Nations General Assembly on September 20, 2017, in New York. (AFP Photo/Brendan Smialowski)

Biden has promised to reverse several Trump administration policies that angered Ramallah, including restoring aid to Palestinian refugees which the Trump administration cut in 2017. Biden is expected to oppose Israeli government efforts to annex parts of the West Bank, but not to reverse the Jerusalem recognition and embassy move.

“We will take immediate steps to restore economic and humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people, address the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Gaza, reopen the U.S. consulate in East Jerusalem and work to reopen the PLO mission in Washington,” Vice President-elect Kamala Harris told Arab American News in late October.

Observers, however, have expressed skepticism that the Palestinian cause will be a central priority for the incoming Biden administration. The new administration faces a raging pandemic at home and numerous foreign policy challenges abroad — making it unlikely that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will take center stage.

In a rare statement, exiled Fatah strongman Mohammad Dahlan praised Biden’s victory over Trump as “a positive development which will put an end to the many dangers of the Trump-Netanyahu alliance to the Palestinian cause, as well as providing new horizons to the path of a new peace based on the two-state solution, as Biden promised personally during the campaign.”

Dahlan, a former Gaza security chief, is seen as a key rival of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. He has lived in the UAE since 2011, when he fled the West Bank after losing an internal power struggle.

Dahlan used his congratulatory message to reiterate his long-standing demand for reform in the Palestinian Authority.

“The end of Trump’s danger is not enough. It is upon us, first of all, to deal with the internal defects and end [political] division and elect legitimate leaders and frameworks who can confront changing developments,” he said.

Hamas terror chief Ismail Haniyeh hailed Trump’s defeat in the presidential race, calling the outgoing president’s administration “extremist.”

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (left) and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh (Flash90, Said Khatib/AFP)

“Our Palestinian people have suffered in prior decades from the bias of American administrations in favor of the occupation, and the Trump administration was the most extremist when it came to supporting the occupation over the national rights of the Palestinian people,” said Haniyeh, whose Gaza-ruling terror group seeks Israel’s elimination.

“We call on President-elect Joe Biden to perform a historic correction to American policies which wronged our people, and which made the United States an accomplice to injustice and aggression, and which harmed regional and global stability,” Haniyeh added.

Senior Hamas official Khaled Mashaal also expressed relief over Trump’s electoral loss without congratulating the new president-elect. “An evil has distanced itself from us with the end of the Trump administration,” commented Mashaal, who led Hamas’s political bureau from 1996 to 2017.

Mashaal said that he hoped that recent efforts to effect internal Palestinian reconciliation would continue despite Biden’s election. A recent bid to unite Abbas’s Fatah faction with the Hamas terror group has stalled in recent weeks as Ramallah waited for the results of the election.

“We hope from President Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority that they will be more careful and not hurry to agree to return to the pointless path of negotiations with the election of Biden,” Mashaal said.

Islamic Jihad predicted little change in US policy vis-a-vis the Palestinians after Biden’s win. The Palestinian terror group shrugged off Trump’s defeat and predicted that it would not lead to any change in US policy.

“We’re not betting on a change in Washington’s policies towards the Palestinian cause. We’ve had bitter experiences with successive American administrations,” it said in a statement carried by official media.

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