Democratic presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama privately expressed his support for a new Arab state within Israel's current borders, including eastern Jerusalem, during his meeting with Palestinian Authority Chairman and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah this summer.
According to a report published Tuesday in the Lebanese newspaper al-Ahbar, Obama told Abbas that he supports a PA state, and Arab "rights to east Jerusalem" as well. The sources said Abbas and PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad "heard the best things they ever heard from an American president" during the meeting. However, said sources quoted in the report, the candidate asked them to keep his declaration a secret.
PA spokesman Nimar Hamad said he had no comment on the remarks, other than to describe the briefing Abbas and Fayyad had given to the presidential hopeful. Later official PA reaction to the report categorically denied that Obama had made the statements attributed to him.
"The Palestinian Authority views the American elections as an internal matter and does not favor one person over another," he said in an official statement. "The PA hopes that the next American president will fulfill his commitment towards the Palestinians and pressure Israel."
Abbas, Fayyad and the rest of the Arab world are clearly hoping for an Obama victory, however. Hamas sources quoted in the article said that Arabs fear new wars would break out in the Middle East if Republican candidate Senator John McCain wins, but they believe there will be an official peace agreement with an Obama White House.
Mixed Messages in Gaza
PA Arabs who live in Gaza were reportedly celebrating in the streets with impromptu demonstrations, waving Hamas flags in anticipation of an Obama win, according to Voice of Israel government radio.
But officials for the terrorist group that controls the region were skeptical that a change in the White House would lead to a change in facts on the ground.
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhum was quoted by Voice of Israel as saying that voters who would have to choose between Obama and McCain were being presented with two "awful" options.
The group's Damascus-based political bureau chief, Khaled Mashaal, softened the statement by saying the group is prepared to work with any U.S. president and would welcome any change in American policy, especially if it corrected what he referred to as a "bias" toward the Jewish State.