The issue of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was not among those front and center in the recent foreign policy debate between U.S. presidential candidates, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, but is has come up numerous times during the course of the campaign. Both candidates have stressed the close relationship between the U.S. and Israel but neither offered much in terms of how they would bring about peace in the Middle East. According to observers, Obama’s promise of change did not extent to Israeli-Palestinian issues, while Romney’s comments on the conflict have been perceived as alienating for many Palestinians. With peace talks stalled, and threats to cut U.S. aid to the territories, have Palestinians given up on America?
On the eve of the election, VOA reporter Rebecca Collard spoke with Palestinian-Americans – in the West Bank – to find out what they think of the presidential candidates and how they see their interests being served, both as Americans and as Palestinians.
Bassil Ibrahim, 33, entrepreneur
“I’m paying closer attention to American politics now that I’m here than when I was in the States…. But I don’t think the policy will change whether it is Republican or Democratic. The policy toward the Palestinians will never change, I think it is just a cycle.”
Derrar Ghamen, 22, university student
“America has a huge impact on the Palestinians but, most importantly, I think America should focus on its domestic issues.… I haven’t seen change domestically, and that’s what I’m concerned about. I haven’t seen better education in the United States, I haven’t seen improvements or developments. There is a lot more to do domestically.”
Mohamed Abdel Hamim, 63, retired businessman
“In the end, the Congress is the one who decides. If the president controls the presidency and the Congress, then he could do something…. To me as a Palestinian there is red line in the White House and no president will cross it. AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) controls the foreign politics…. The American government needs to look for the benefit of the American people, not what’s good for Israel.”
Sireen Quwarr, 29, mother
“To be honest, as a Palestinian, I really don’t think it’s important all. Nothing is going to change, nothing is going to change for me as a Palestinian. As an American, yeah I feel it’s important. I don’t usually lean toward Republican. I prefer Barack Obama. But we won’t know until that person comes into the office.”
Hakim Bahour, 21, university student
“I think it’s a just game, they just use us in politics. None of them care about Palestine…. I don’t think [having Israel as an ally] is in our interest because these people are talking about going to war with Iran and they are going to drag America into that. How is that good? How is war good? What has Israel done for America? America has done a lot for Israel.”
Sana Bahour, 49, unemployed IT specialist
“The past four years we saw a little improvement and I know it takes longer to fix the problems, especially job-wise. I’m hoping [Obama] will continue to do what he’s doing if he wins…. As a Palestinian I don’t think I’ve seen any difference, but as an American I’m looking for more improvement job-wise. It’s important to me—jobs and health insurance.”
Ali Dreidi, 21, economist
“It think it’s like choosing between worst, and less worse. Both candidates have [a] terrible foreign policy, especially in regards to Palestine…. Obama came and we had a lot of expectations when he gave his Cairo speech. Arabs went crazy, especially Palestinians, thinking this president would come and change the game and bring a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But actually, it was only words, and actions speak louder than words. When Obama came, settlement activity doubled, he increased military spending to Israel and he vetoed the Palestinians when they went to the U.N. to stop settlement activity and didn’t give us our state. And I think Mitt Romney is worse than Obama.”
Alexander Farohn, 65, retired businessman
“Every single one of them says we are going to have peace in the Middle East and give this one their rights, and this one their rights. And after the election they all forget… this election is no different. They all promise things but they will never accomplish anything. America needs to tell [Israel] that if they take one more inch of the Palestinian land they will cut aid.
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Rebecca Collard is a journalist covering Israel, the Palestinian Territories and the region. She's worked in the Middle East since 2007 covering political, cultural and social stories for print, television and online media.