News / Middle East

President Obama Faces Palestinian Frustrations

Palestinians protest March 19, in Ramallah against the West Bank visit of President Barack Obama. Photo: VOA / R. Collard
Palestinians protest March 19, in Ramallah against the West Bank visit of President Barack Obama. Photo: VOA / R. Collard
Rebecca Collard
President Barack Obama faced some long-simmering frustrations among Palestinians when he visited the Israeli-occupied West Bank on Thursday.

 

Israel captured the West Bank from Jordan during the 1967 Middle East war and moving toward half a century later the Palestinians who live there are waiting for the independent nation they've been promised for decades. Many blame the United States over its long-standing support for Israel and others believe Washington has not done enough to help them even though it has mediated successive rounds of peace talks.

 

That's why about 150 Palestinian activists marched through the streets of Ramallah this week to protest the Obama visit. Some carried placards with and pictures of Obama in an Israeli military uniform under the words “No Hope.”

Watch related report by Jeff Custer:

Obama Calls for Talks on Core Israeli-Palestinian Issuesi
X
March 21, 2013 4:54 PM
On the second day of his visit to the Middle East, U.S. President Barack Obama visited Ramallah in the West Bank for talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and tours of the area. Obama took the opportunity to call on Israelis and Palestinians to begin peace talks on core issues of their conflict. Jeff Custer reports.

Meetings with Palestinian Authority

The president visited Ramallah for talks with Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, the governing body that administers the West Bank and its more than two million Palestinian residents. Abbas and Palestinian Authority officials are expected to once again press their case for statehood and express their unhappiness over Washington's moves to block their full recognition by the United Nations.

 

“We’d like to see President Obama say is that in time to end the [Israeli] occupation,” says Sabri Saidam, an advisor to Abbas. “We are watching the continuation of Israeli settlement and the evaporation of the Palestinian geography.

 

“If we are talking about democracy and freedom, why do they [the United States] support the Tunisia, for example, but this doesn’t apply to Palestinians?” Saidam asked.


Saidam says these issues would be on Palestinian agenda this week and that Washington should now support Palestinians in their pursuit of full membership in the United Nations as a sovereign, independent nation.


Oslo Accords of 1993

The United States has played a key role in negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians over the years, and in helping to bank-roll both Israel and the Palestinian Authority—the governing body that grew out of the 1993 Oslo peace Accords.


The Hamas organization that governs the Gaza Strip and its 1.8 million Palestinian residents has been left out of the visit. It is considered a terrorist movement by the United States.

 

A Palestinian women hold up a sign march 19, protesting the West Bank visit of President Barack Obama. Photo: VOA / R. CollardA Palestinian women hold up a sign march 19, protesting the West Bank visit of President Barack Obama. Photo: VOA / R. Collard
x
A Palestinian women hold up a sign march 19, protesting the West Bank visit of President Barack Obama. Photo: VOA / R. Collard
A Palestinian women hold up a sign march 19, protesting the West Bank visit of President Barack Obama. Photo: VOA / R. Collard

This week's protest in Ramallah was organized by Palestinians for Dignity, a coalition of a half-dozen local activist groups that has become key in organizing demonstrations against Israel, the Palestinian Authority and now the U.S. As well.


“Why are we protesting Obama’s visit?” says one member who asked not to use his name fearing arrest by Palestinian security forces. “The answer is two-fold. Both what he represents and what he’s here to do.”

 

He says Palestinians for Dignity are protesting the American government’s unconditional support of Israel, but also U.S. Support for the Palestinian Authority, an institution that he says lacks legitimacy in the eyes of many Palestinians.


Frustrations spill over

The Palestinian leadership has postponed elections and the 2013 Human Rights Watch report cites dozens of complaints of arbitrary detention and torture by Palestinian Authority security forces.

 

It is because of this, says Palestinians for Dignity, it has given-up on preaching their cause to foreign powers and instead are looking inward to Palestinian society.


“We don’t have a lot of belief that the U.S. could positively contribute here,” says the activist. “Maybe Obama is here to restart the negotiations. That might seem like a rosy objective but Palestinians have seen what that has brought us.”


Even those here who know the United States well say Washington has an image problem with Palestinians when it comes to possibly restarting the moribund Israeli-Palestinian peace process.


“'Process' has become a four letter word in the Palestinian lexicon,” says Sam Bahour, a Palestinian-American. He moved to the West Bank from Ohio, where he was born just after the signing of 1993 Oslo Accords.

 

“After 20 years of Oslo and negotiations, Palestinians are convinced the U.S. cannot play a neutral role,” says Bahour. “They support Israel, politically, financially and militarily. Palestinians have almost zero hope. Every time a dignitary, American or not, visits, they raise expectations but will not hold Israel accountable.”


Many Palestinians were hopeful when Obama took office, but the U.S. opposition to their bid for full membership in the United Nations last year was a serious blow to their belief in America’s interest in achieving a Palestinian state.


On the main road that runs from Jerusalem to Ramallah, large posters bearing President Obama’s picture line the street, but the posters aren’t there to welcome the U.S. president to the Palestinian Territories, but rather, to chide him:


“President Obama, Don’t bring your Smart Phone to Ramallah. You Won’t Have Mobile Access to Internet. We have no 3G in Palestine!”

 

A Palestinian protest sign tells President Obama his smart phone will not work on the West Bank. Photo: VOA / R.CollardA Palestinian protest sign tells President Obama his smart phone will not work on the West Bank. Photo: VOA / R.Collard
x
A Palestinian protest sign tells President Obama his smart phone will not work on the West Bank. Photo: VOA / R.Collard
A Palestinian protest sign tells President Obama his smart phone will not work on the West Bank. Photo: VOA / R.Collard

The signs are designed to focus attention on a small but indicative fact of life in the West Bank. Israel restricts access to the frequencies Palestinian mobile carriers need to offer fast 3G service to customers.

 

As Palestinians try to build the state promised by the Oslo Accords, they face the continued challenges of occupation—no control over their borders and trade, continued Israeli settlement activity and even an inability to offer the kind of mobile communications needed for business. Some feel the U.S. should use the clout of its $3 billion in yearly aid to Israel to push for changes.


“America does nothing to help us,” says 35-year-old Bilal, wheeling his taxi through the streets of Ramallah, a city where many are dependent on Palestinian Authority salaries. “When Israel doesn’t transfer us our money, Obama should do something.”


When the Palestinian leadership asked for membership in the United Nations, Israel withheld tax money and U.S. Congress also delayed aid bound for the government in Ramallah. The Authority couldn’t pay full salaries and the effect was felt across the territories.


Even so, not all Palestinians have given up. In his clothing store across from one of the massive posters warning Obama about his smart phone, Nasser Shatawi is hopeful.

 

“Obama is better than President Bush. He wants to make peace,” says Shatawi. “I ask Obama, help Palestinians, help us make peace and have security. But I wonder if he knows how.”

You May Like

Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Dynamic and debonair opposition leader had supported liberal economic reforms, criticized Russian president's aggression in Ukraine More

Oil Smuggling Highlights Challenges in Shutting Down IS Finances

Pentagon spokesman says Islamic State 'certainly continues to get revenue from the oil industry black market' but that airstrikes have made a dent More

India Focuses on Infrastructure, Investment to Propel Economy

Government expects economy to grow at 8 to 8.5 percent in next fiscal year More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Roger1942 from: Dc
March 20, 2013 10:57 PM
It's a shame what the Israel are doing to do Palestinians people. Why is Israel controlling most everything in Palestinians territories? Is Israel becoming a communist party? I thought we would learn from the past history. Why are we (US) send 10 billion dollars Americans hard earn money to Israel each year?

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More