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

Lion Cecil's Killing Sparks 'Canned Hunting' Debate in S. Africa

Conservationists believe incident, which triggered worldwide outrage, will reshape debate about practice in which hunters are allowed to target animals bred for hunting More

Taliban's New Leader Says Jihad Will Continue

Top US Afghan diplomat also meets with Pakistani, Afghan officials following news of Mullah Omar's death More

Environmentalists Issue Warning on Mekong Biodiversity

Scientists say decades of economic development, hydropower-dam construction, lax law enforcement and trafficking have taken their toll 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.
Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missionsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
July 30, 2015 8:59 PM
Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.

VOA Blogs