JERUSALEM, Nov 7 (Reuters) - The Palestinians have been holding out for a change of U.S. president for three years, hoping for a chance to hit the reset button on relations with Washington.
There was no immediate response from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas after Joe Biden was declared winner of the U.S. presidential election by major television networks on Saturday, but the first key decision facing Abbas is whether he will resume political contacts with the United States.
Three years ago Abbas cut off contact with President Donald Trump’s White House, accusing it of pro-Israel bias over Trump’s decisions to break with decades of U.S. policy by recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and moving the U.S. Embassy to the city.
“We don’t expect miraculous transformation, but at least we expect the dangerous destructive policies of Trump to totally stop,” said Hanan Ashrawi, a veteran negotiator and member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation’s Executive Committee.
“It is time to change course,” she added. “They should change course and deal with the Palestinian question on the bases of legality, equality and justice and not on the basis of responding to special interests of pro-Israeli lobbies or whatever.”
Other Trump decisions that infuriated the Palestinians were to de-fund the United Nations agency that deals with Palestinian refugees and to shut the Palestinian diplomatic mission in Washington.
Trump also published a Mideast blueprint in January that envisaged Israeli sovereignty over parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, territory that Palestinians seek for a state.
“It is a happy day. Trump is gone,” said Um Mohammad, a mother of four in Gaza. “I hope that Biden does not make the same mistakes and that he doesn’t blindly follow Israel.”
Hamas, the Islamist militant group that controls Gaza and is regarded as a terrorist group by the U.S. and Israel, also welcomed the setback for the current occupant of the White House.
“We are happy at the departure of the criminal Trump and we will judge Biden through the positions he will take in relation to the Palestinian cause,” he said.
Mohammad Dahlan, a former Palestinian security chief and government minister based in Abu Dhabi, said Biden’s win would “open a new horizon for peace that is based on the two-state solution as Biden promised during his election campaign.”
However Dahlan, who is living in exile and out of favour with Abbas, his party leader, called for internal reforms.
“The removal of Trump’s danger isn’t enough, we have to resolve our internal imbalance by ending the divisions and elect new institutions and legitimate leaders,” he said in a post on his Facebook page.
This was echoed by Salem Barahmeh, executive director of the Palestine Institute for Public Diplomacy, who cautioned that Biden was not going to deliver liberation for Palestinians or the independent statehood that they seek.
“Take this time to look internally to our own people and build unity,” he wrote on Twitter in a post calling for “a representative/inclusive/democratic political system and a viable strategy for liberation that inspires/mobilises.” (Additional reporting by Ali Sawaftal; Editing by Stephen Farrell and Mike Harrison)
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