California Sen. Kamala Harris, the chosen running mate of Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential candidate, has been a staunch supporter of Israel.
This might disappoint the Palestinian leadership, which hopes that Biden, if elected, will change American policies favoring Israel. Yet when reached by The Media Line, several high-ranking Palestinian officials declined to comment on Harris’s candidacy.
Prof. Dalal Iriqat, an expert on diplomacy, conflict resolution and strategic planning at the Arab American University in Jenin and a columnist at the Al-Quds newspaper, believes it understandable that Palestinians evaluate matters based on their interests.
“We shouldn’t be upset by the decision or judge it now, as our top priority is to get rid of [President Donald] Trump,” she told The Media Line. “Therefore, we have to accept any alternative.”
Iriqat says that in terms of American politics and increasing Biden’s chances of winning, his choice was wise and strategic “given the Black Lives Matter campaign going on in the US, and other movements.”
She stresses that for Palestinians, Trump is the main issue. Since December 2017, when he announced US recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the Palestinian leadership has been boycotting his administration.
“I think we need Trump to go, as there won’t be anyone worse than him,” she said.
“We shouldn’t rely on any Democratic American president to change our reality,” she stated. “Even during the Obama era, Israel was receiving the largest amount of aid money. We shouldn’t dream that an American president will change our lives. But for now we want Trump to leave.”
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh said during a recent teleconference with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace that Palestinians hope a Biden victory will produce a comprehensive change in US polices toward Israel.
Democratic campaign spokesman Michael Gwin says Biden opposes “any unilateral action by either side that would weaken the chances of implementing the two-state solution, including annexation of territories….” However, one of Harris’s first actions as a senator was to cosponsor a bill objecting to a UN Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.
Ghassan Khatib, a professor of political science and cultural studies at Birzeit University near Ramallah, says Palestinians should not delude themselves into thinking that Biden and Harris would give the US an administration supportive of Palestinians. They would simply be the better choice.
“Nothing will be worse than Trump for us,” he told The Media Line. “Anything else will be less harmful.”
Trump, Khatib said, “deviated from historical American foreign policy and from the commitments of previous American administrations regarding Jerusalem and other issues,” and Biden’s choice of Harris as a running mate increases his chances of defeating Trump.
“He [Trump] is bad news for us and for the Israelis who aspire to achieve peace. Trump is good news for the radical and aggressive Israeli right-wingers like [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu,” Khatib stated.
“Palestinians were harmed by Trump’s policies,” he continued. “Therefore, we can’t hide the fact that we don’t want Trump to win a new term as president.”