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Palestinians Throw Support For 'Anybody But Mr. Trump'

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

There's a lot at stake for Palestinians, whether President Trump or former Vice President Joe Biden wins the election. NPR's Daniel Estrin reports there's no question who most Palestinians want to see win.

DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: Israeli and Palestinian officials are playing their cards very differently this U.S. election season. Israeli officials are hedging their bets, saying they'd be happy with Donald Trump or Joe Biden. Palestinian officials...

NABIL SHAATH: Anybody but Mr. Trump.

ESTRIN: That's Nabil Shaath, the Palestinian president's international affairs adviser. When Trump caught the coronavirus and went to the hospital, Shaath's wife wrote on Facebook, may he go and never come back.

SHAATH: I know America will never treat us equally with Israelis, but we have been through times during Mr. Obama's time, Mr. Clinton's time, George Bush Sr. - administrations that were much more fair and practical than what Mr. Trump has done during his presidency. To us, he was a catastrophe.

ESTRIN: Trump moved the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem and sided with Israel's claims to a city Palestinians also claim. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas cut ties with Trump, and Trump retaliated. The U.S. stopped sending humanitarian aid, and that has affected ordinary Palestinians. Just one example - the U.S. stopped paying for eye surgeons to travel to Gaza to perform cornea transplants with corneas from the U.S. Gaza doesn't have its own corneal transplant surgeons. Walid Shaqoura directs the St. John Eye Hospital in Gaza.

WALID SHAQOURA: We have now waiting lists for more than 350 patients need cornea implantation. I expect that about five to 10 cases either lose their vision totally or partially.

ESTRIN: Trump tweeted that he stopped the humanitarian aid because, quote, "we pay the Palestinians hundreds of millions of dollars a year, and we get no appreciation or respect." Trump also closed the Palestinian representative office in Washington. Just this year, he presented an Israeli-Palestinian peace proposal that Palestinians could not stomach, and he advanced diplomatic deals between Israel and Arab countries that sidelined Palestinians. I visited the West Bank town of al-Bireh. Many Palestinians there have U.S. citizenship.

AREF YOUSEF: Where are you from?

ESTRIN: St. Louis, Mo.

YOUSEF: Oh, my God, I love St. Louis.

ESTRIN: That's Aref Yousef, about to start a game of cards with friends. I asked him what he thinks of Trump's opponent, Joe Biden.

YOUSEF: I know nothing about him, but he's better than Trump. He's better than Trump million times.

ESTRIN: Around the corner, there's a store where Palestinians mail food to relatives in the U.S. Store owner Kanan Itayim (ph) lived all over the U.S.

KANAN ITAYIM: In Alaska, I used to be a fisherman catching salmon.

ESTRIN: He is putting his hopes in Biden.

ITAYIM: I want him to be fair, just to be fair. One word - be fair.

ESTRIN: Palestinian pollster Khalil Shikaki is concerned that if Trump wins, the current deadlock will just continue.

KHALIL SHIKAKI: Israeli-Palestinian relations, I believe, will enter a very delicate and potentially explosive period.

ESTRIN: On the other hand, if Biden wins, he says, it'll give the U.S. and Palestinians options for a fresh start.

Daniel Estrin, NPR News, the West Bank.

(SOUNDBITE OF KAZUMI KANEDA'S "MIND RELAXATION") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.