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A Lot Is Riding On The U.S. Election For Israelis, Palestinians


One foreign leader who's going to be paying close attention to the election results is Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He has had a huge influence on President Trump's Mideast policy, and the two have given political support to each other when challenged. Overall, Israelis and Palestinians have a lot riding on whether Trump or Joe Biden wins.

NPR's Daniel Estrin is in Jerusalem and joins us now. Hi, Daniel.

DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: Good morning, Rachel.

MARTIN: Let's start with Netanyahu. What is at stake for him in this U.S. election?

ESTRIN: A lot is at stake. His relationship with Trump is one of the strongest cards that he has with Israelis. And Netanyahu is facing weekly protests calling for him to resign, so maybe those protests could intensify if the protesters find inspiration in a Trump loss. I mean, we're talking about two leaders who really have depended on each other during very tough times. Netanyahu has come to Trump's defense when Trump has been accused of fomenting anti-Semitism, and then Trump has come to Netanyahu's aid when Netanyahu struggled to keep his job in three consecutive elections. But now Netanyahu is really playing it safe just in case Biden wins, and I want to play you this very awkward exchange that happened just a week and a half ago. Trump had just brokered a diplomatic deal between Israel and Sudan, and he had Netanyahu on speakerphone.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: You think sleepy Joe could have made this deal, Bibi, sleepy Joe? I think - you think he would have made this deal somehow? I don't think so.

PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: Well, Mr. President, one thing I can tell you is we appreciate the help for peace from anyone in America, and we appreciate what you've done enormously.

TRUMP: Yeah.

MARTIN: Wow. So much said in the pause there. So walk through what Donald Trump has done for Israel in Netanyahu's view.

ESTRIN: Trump has sided with Israel and against the Palestinians again and again. He moved the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. He sided with Israel's claims to the city, even though Palestinians also want to establish their own capital there. He recognized Israel's annexation of the Golan Heights, which was captured from Syria. He went against most countries when he recognized the legitimacy of Israel's settlements in the occupied West Bank. And he even proposed a peace deal that would see Israel annex all of its West Bank settlements, which Palestinians say would make it impossible for them to have their own viable state. The last thing he's done is broker diplomatic deals between Israel and some Arab countries, and that broke the Arab consensus that Israel should make peace with the Palestinians first before being accepted by the Arab world.

MARTIN: All right. So Daniel, how do Palestinians view this election, then?

ESTRIN: Well, they have a very clear preference. They are praying for Biden to win. They hope he can offer them a fresh start, a way, you know, to renew relations with the U.S., which have been cut off under Trump. I asked Dan Shapiro, the U.S. ambassador to Israel under Obama, what might change under a Biden presidency. He said Biden would not move the U.S. Embassy out of Jerusalem but that Biden would take steps to preserve a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, like opposing Israeli settlement expansion. And that would be something the Palestinians would welcome.

MARTIN: NPR's Daniel Estrin in Jerusalem. Thank you.

ESTRIN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Daniel Estrin is NPR's international correspondent in Jerusalem.
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