Palestinian Authority communicating with Biden campaign
Former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden accepts the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination during a speech delivered for the largely virtual 2020 Democratic National Convention from the Chase Center in Wilmington, Delaware, U.S., August 20, 2020
(photo credit: REUTERS/KEVIN LAMARQUE)
Relations with Trump Administration frozen since US recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Two senior Palestinian officials have confirmed to The Media Line that the Palestinian Authority is maintaining direct channels of communication with the campaign of US Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.
The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said a Palestinian-American businessman had helped establish contact between the PA and Biden's top advisers.
"Having dialogue with the Democratic candidate is important to the leadership,” one of the officials told The Media Line. “We want to let Mr. Biden know that we are willing and ready to talk.”
PA officials have roundly condemned the policies of the incumbent, President Donald Trump. Under Trump, the US recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moved its embassy there from Tel Aviv. The PA claims east Jerusalem as the future capital of a Palestinian state.
In response, the Palestinian leaders cut off contact with the Trump Administration and refused to enter US-led talks with Israel under the so-called deal of the century, which they swiftly rejected as biased toward Israel. Washington also terminated millions of dollars of annual financial aid to the PA and ordered the Palestine Liberation Organization office in the American capital shuttered.
The PA has proclaimed that under Trump, the US is no longer an honest broker to mediate peace. Biden, on the other hand, is closely associated with the Obama administration, regarded by Palestinians and most Israelis as having been far-more friendly to Palestinian aspirations.
“We are sure that if he wins, he will reassert the US position on the two-state solution and order the PLO office in Washington reopened," the second PA official told The Media Line.
Jihad Harb, a political analyst for several Palestinian media outlets, says the Palestinians are watching the election campaigns with great interest because whoever wins will have a major impact on the Palestinian cause.
"It is not surprising that there are relations with American parties,” he told The Media Line.
“The Palestinians have reestablished relations with an important segment of the congressional leadership in the past few years,” he emphasized. “The Democratic Party has a majority in the House of Representatives, and there are certainly channels of communication."
Harb says the PA is confident that as president, Biden would work to reopen additional channels for contacts.
"They [Palestinian leaders] definitely want Trump to leave,” the analyst explained. “He imposed a set of cruel, unfair and anti-Palestinian measures, and therefore they prefer Biden, at least because of their experience with him during his years as vice president in the Obama administration."
Harb says the PA knows Biden well and would be "ecstatic" to see the Democrat in the White House.
"The Palestinians usually prefer the Democrats, and the Palestinian leadership prefers that the president be from the Democratic Party," he said.
While Palestinian officials remain circumspect – publicly, at least – rank and file citizens are openly cheering for Biden, with many using the term “catastrophic” to describe the specter of a second Trump term.
"He's the worst American president ever when it comes to the Palestinians," Fahmi Khalaf, a men's clothing store owner in the West Bank city of Ramallah, told The Media Line.
"He did all he could to serve Israel. We are aware that American presidents work for Israel, but Trump completely ignored our rights like no other US president," he stated.
Hassan Awwad, a US-based expert on the Middle East, says it is clear that Palestinian leaders prefer Biden.
“There’s no doubt in Palestinian officials’ minds that a Biden win will mitigate the economic hardship and provide [PA] President [Mahmoud] Abbas the ladder [he] desperately needs to climb down from the tree,” he told The Media Line.
It is no secret that the Palestinian leadership feels isolated. Three Arab countries are now normalizing ties with Israel, and Ramallah’s relations with many key Arab capitals are at best lukewarm.
The PA is thus eager for friendlier relations with Washington to help lift it out of its isolation and make it relevant again.
Khaled Elgindy, a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute in Washington and author of the new book Blind Spot: America and the Palestinians, from Balfour to Trump, says that while Biden and his running mate, California Sen. Kamala Harris, are staunch Israel supporters, they will take a different approach to that of Trump.
“A Biden victory come November will no doubt revive hopes for a two-state solution and give Palestinian leaders a much-needed reprieve,” he told The Media Line. “However, a Biden administration is unlikely to break with past approaches to the conflict or fundamentally alter dynamics on the ground…. The difference between a Biden and a Trump administration is a Biden administration will at least rhetorically affirm a commitment to the two-state solution, although he won’t make it a huge priority.”
Trump abandoned the two-state solution in favor of pushing for diplomatic ties between Israel and Arab countries.
“Biden,” Elgindy said, “has pledged to reverse the most destructive of these policies in a bid to salvage what remains of a two-state solution and restore US-Palestinian relations.”
In the event that Trump come out on top, Harb says the PA will work to manage the situation in the best possible way.
"If Trump is reelected,” he said, “the Palestinians must prepare for another four harsh years."Read more articles from The Media Line.