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

    Wife of IS Leader Charged in Death of US Hostage

    Suspect allegedly admitted to being responsible for American aid worker Kayla Mueller, who officials say was sexually abused and ‘owned’ by one IS member

    Year of the Monkey Could Prove Economic Balancing Act for China

    China is up against a tricky situation on the financial front, facing the need to fight capital flight while also stopping a further slide of foreign currency reserves

    Runners Attempt 26-mile South Pole Marathon in Sub-Zero Temperatures

    How alluring is running 26.2 miles at 10,000 feet when it’s minus 31 Celsius out?

    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.
    'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenyai
    X
    February 08, 2016 4:30 PM
    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video Sanders, Clinton Battle for Young Democratic Vote

    Despite a narrow loss to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in last week's Iowa Democratic caucuses, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders secured more than 80 percent of the vote among those between the ages of 18 and 29. VOA correspondent Aru Pande talks to Democrats in New Hampshire about who they are leaning towards and why in this week's primary.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.