Palestinians welcome Trump's exit however are cautious about Biden

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© Reuters. Palestinians protest against Jewish settlements and the US President Donald Trump

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By Nidal al-Mughrabi, Rami Ayyub and Zainah El-Haroun

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – The Palestinians have been campaigning for a change of US president for three years and are hoping for a chance to press the reset button on relations with Washington.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas did not respond after Joe Biden was declared the winner of the US presidential election by major television networks on Saturday. The first important decision for Abbas, however, is whether he will resume political contacts with the United States.

Abbas cut contact with President Donald Trump's White House three years ago, accusing it of having pro-Israel prejudice against Trump's decisions to break with decades of US politics by recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the US embassy in the city moved.

"We don't expect a miraculous transformation, but at least we expect the dangerous destructive policies of Trump to come to an end entirely," said Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

"They should change course and deal with the Palestinian issue on the basis of legality, equality and justice and not in response to specific interests of pro-Israel lobbies or whatever," she added.

In the West Bank city of Ramallah, Palestinian shoemaker Imad Haj Muhammad was delighted to see Trump leave, despite making money selling shoes with Trump's name, a sign of disrespect in Arab culture.

But Haj Muhammad, 57, remains cautious about a Biden presidency and had a message for him. “We hope that the American government will change its policy towards the Palestinians. Don't support the occupation, "he said.

JERUSALEM AND REFUGEES

Other Trump decisions that enraged the Palestinians included the cut in aid, the de-funding of the United Nations agency that deals with Palestinian refugees, and the closure of the Palestinian diplomatic mission in Washington.

Trump also released a blueprint for the Middle East in January, which provided Israeli sovereignty over parts of the Israel-occupied West Bank, an area the Palestinians are looking for a state.

Biden has announced that he will restore funding for the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

In the past he has also spoken out against Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank and supported a two-state solution to the conflict, a formula according to which a future state of Palestine would coexist alongside Israel.

However, it is unlikely that he will bring the US embassy back to Tel Aviv from Jerusalem.

And he has welcomed Israel's recently announced "normalization" agreements with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan, which have condemned the Palestinians.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, head of the Islamist group that controls Gaza, called on Biden to "correct unjust US policies that have made the United States a partner for injustice and aggression."

However, with Abbas still silent, it is unclear whether his Palestinian Authority will resume relations with the White House or Israel.

Hani al-Masri, a Palestinian political analyst, said it was difficult for the Palestinians to continue their boycott, although expectations of Biden remained modest.

"Biden's policies may appeal to Palestinians … but he will not get into conflict given the presence of a (right-wing) government in Israel, which will be a major obstacle for him. He will not be ready to put pressure on Israel," he said .

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