Monday, 4 March. 2024
Your Key to Palestine
The Palestinian Initiatives for The Promotoion of Global Dialogue and Democracy

US President Barack Obama will most likely receive a lukewarm welcome by Palestinians when he arrives in the country on March 20. That is in the best case scenario, although word has it that youth groups are planning to greet him with protests. Signs have already gone up in Ramallah and Qalandiya, warning the US President not to bring his smart phone because “there is no 3G in Palestine” although the Israeli restrictions on Palestinian internet and cellphone services are the least of Palestinians’ problems. If anything, Palestinians are peeved that Obama is finally visiting Palestine for the first time since he took office and is basically bringing nothing with him.

At least for the Palestinians. For Israel, Obama has made it abundantly clear that his country will put Israel’s security front and center in any conversation he may have on the conflict. He even described his relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – with whom he has reportedly had a very tumultuous relationship – as “terrific and businesslike.” There is no doubt President Obama’s trip will be to the full benefit of Israel.

Take for example, the sheer number of hours the President will spend on either side of the divide. In Israel, he will spend some 50 hours between official receptions, visiting the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum, dinners, breakfasts (complete with falafel and hummus) and laying wreaths on Theodor Herzl’s and late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s grave. With the Palestinians, he will spend a total of four hours, tops.

And in those four hours, Obama will not present any groundbreaking plan to solve the conflict. Rather, he said he was coming to “listen” and learn more about each side’s perspectives.

The problem is, Palestinians are tired of playing that game. They know Barack Obama knows better. Back in 2007, speaking to an Iowa group of Democrats the then-Senator said “Nobody is suffering more than the Palestinian people.” When he first became President he drew Israeli ire by calling for a settlement freeze, making it clear he believed the settlements were the main obstacle to peace. He appointed George Mitchell as his special envoy to the peace process to try and get the process moving and he reiterated US support for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.

Then slowly but surely, like old paint that keeps chipping off a wall, Obama’s half-decent stances towards the Palestinians crumbled one by one. He no longer calls for a freeze in settlements, his country vetoed a Security Council draft resolution on Palestinian statehood and voted against the General Assembly resolution on the same subject last November. He does not lose an opportunity to talk about the “special bond” the US maintains with Israel or the unwavering support Israel will always receive.

Therefore, Palestinians are less than enthusiastic about Obama’s trip. Perhaps if he had made the same trip when he was first elected and when his values were still intact regarding Palestine, his reception would have been a bit different. Today, if he is lucky, he will be met with cordial indifference, at least by the people. However, if they are determined to make their opinions about the United State’ lopsided role in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict heard, then Mr. Obama may be in for an earful.

Joharah Baker is a Writer for the Media and Information Department at the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy (MIFTAH). She can be contacted at mid@miftah.org.

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