Posted by on March 22, 2013 in Blog

On the second day of his Middle East trip and his first official trip to Israel, President Obama met with President Abbas in the Israeli-occupied West Bank city of Ramallah in hopes of reinitiating a peace process.

The President clearly stated that peace is paramount in the region. During a joint news conference with President Abbas, he said that "we cannot give up on the search for peace, no matter how hard it is...too much is at stake." Condemning the continued development of Israeli settlements on Palestinian land as “illegal” and a “hurdle to the two-state solution,” the President insisted that "the United States is deeply committed to the creation of an independent and sovereign state of Palestine,” adding that, “simply, Palestinians deserve a state of their own." As President Abbas listened intently, Obama likened the plight of the Palestinian people with the American Civil Rights movement, stating that,“there was a time in U.S. history when my daughters could not expect to have the same opportunities as somebody else’s daughter.”

Despite having acknowledged the illegality of Israeli settlement building on Palestinian land, Obama counter-intuitively advised that the Palestinian Authority set aside the demand to freeze settlement building as a hope of addressing the “core issue” of the conflict, which he described as “sovereignty for the Palestinian people” and “security for the Israeli people”. He insisted that “if we solve those two problems, the settlement problem will be solved.” President Obama’s circular argument fails to address how the Palestinian people will attain sovereignty if their land is increasingly encroached upon by illegal Israeli settlements. The more Israel continues to solidify its control of the West Bank, the more difficult it will be for Palestine to reclaim its land. For this reason Abbas maintained that “it is the duty of the Israeli government to at least halt the activity, so we can speak of the issues,” adding that “the issue of settlements is clear: we never gave up our vision, whether now or previously.” He also added that Palestinians “believe that peace is necessary and inevitable, and we also believe it is possible.”

Meanwhile, disillusioned Palestinians, with crushed hopes of living in a land free of foreign rule with rights that would protect them instead render them second-class citizens, are struggling under increasingly harsh conditions. With unemployment over 18 percent and an average annual income of $12,000 a year (less than half of the annual income of the average Israeli), Palestinians are fraught with despair and lack the hope they had four years ago as Obama delivered his speech in Cairo. Many Palestinians believe Obama is simply concerned with mending fences with Israel and see no end in sight to their occupation.

Despite a small demonstration in the West Bank on Thursday in regards to Obama’s trip, the majority of Palestinians went about their daily business weary of the seemingly never-ending occupation. One bystander of the demonstration said “What good does it do [to demonstrate]? Nobody listens to us.”

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