Accessibility links

Obama Visit Leaves Good Impression on Israelis, Palestinians


U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama has ended a week long trip to Afghanistan, Iraq, Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories. VOA's Jim Teeple reports from Jerusalem that Israelis and Palestinians say the Illinois senator left a positive impression during his visit.

Barack Obama wrapped up his trip to Israel and the Palestinian territories with a pre-dawn visit to Jerusalem's Wailing Wall - the holiest site in Judaism.

Obama's visit to Israel was seen by many Israelis as an attempt to gain favor with U.S. Jewish voters, because polls show many have reservations about his support for Israel.

But Israelis like Tony Jason who avidly followed Obama's visit say many Israelis support the presumptive Democratic Party nominee.

"We would like to send a message to the American voting public and in particular the American Jewish communities that we are Israelis, we live in Israel, we are part of Israeli society and we feel confident in a Barack Obama presidency," he said.

Much of Obama's visit to Israel focused on reassuring Israelis that he supports their concerns over a nuclear Iran and their concerns over security issues in general. In remarks with Israeli leaders, Obama vowed support for Israel, saying he would not press its leaders to make concessions that would compromise their country's security.

For many Israelis the highlight of the Obama visit was his trip to the city of Sderot, battered by rocket fire from Palestinian militants from across the Gaza border.

Uri Dromi, a columnist and director of a conference center involved in conflict resolution issues in Jerusalem, says Obama's Sderot visit left a good impression with Israelis.

"He was very wise to go to Sderot, which is really a sore issue here in Israel," he noted. "The way he expressed himself saying if someone fired missiles into his home where his daughters live, that he would do anything in his capacity to stop it that is exactly the kind of rhetoric that resonates well in Israel. So I think yes, he made a very good impression."

Obama's visit to the West Bank drew a more subdued response and he confined himself to meetings with moderate Palestinian leaders like President Mahmoud Abbas.

Palestinians generally welcomed his commitment that if elected president he will immediately begin working to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

But Hani Al-Masri a political analyst and independent journalist in the West Bank says Palestinians also wanted to hear more from Obama about the issues they deal with every day living under Israeli occupation.

"They (Palestinians) want him to be fair," Al-Masri said. "Because the Palestinians are under occupation and he said nothing about the occupation or about settlements and he did not want to face the press because he wanted to avoid questions about the settlements and about the Israeli policies."

Most Israelis and Palestinians say they realize Obama's visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories had more to do with U.S. domestic politics than with resolving their 60-year-old conflict. But as he left the region many Israelis and Palestinians said they were reassured by Obama, and many say that if the Illinois senator does win the presidency in November they believe he will soon be back in the region to act on the promises he made during his visit.

XS
SM
MD
LG