Palestinians unenthusiastic about Obama visit
Ramallah, West Bank • President Barack Obama will find a disillusioned Palestinian public, skeptical about his commitment to promoting Mideast peace, when he visits the region.
Obama's trip, beginning Wednesday, appears aimed primarily at resetting the sometimes troubled relationship with Israel. But winning the trust of the Palestinians, who accuse him of unfairly favoring Israel, could be a far more difficult task.
After suffering disappointments during Obama's first term, Palestinians see little reason for optimism in his new term. The White House announcement that Obama will not present any new peace initiatives strengthened their conviction that the U.S. leader isn't prepared to put the pressure on Israel that they think is necessary to end four years of deadlock in negotiations.
"Obama is coming for Israel, not for us," said Mohammed Albouz, a 55-year-old Palestinian farmer. "Obama will come and go as his predecessors did, without doing anything."
While Israel is preparing to give Obama the red-carpet treatment, there are few signs of excitement in the West Bank. Large posters of Obama that hung in Ramallah last week were quickly defaced. A small group of activists called "The Campaign for Dignity" plans on releasing black balloons into the air in a sign of mourning when Obama arrives.
The current deadlock stems in large part from disagreements over Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. The Palestinians claim both areas, captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war, as parts of a future state,
More than 500,000 Israelis now live in settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. The Palestinians say the ever-growing settlements are a sign of bad faith and make it increasingly difficult to partition the land between two peoples.