“Those who adhere to the ideology of rejecting Israel's right to exist might as well reject the earth beneath them and the sky above, because Israel is not going anywhere. Today, I want to tell you — particularly the young people — that so long as there is a United States of America, Ah-tem lo lah-vahd. You are not alone,” Obama said.
“Israel is the most powerful country in this region. Israel has the unshakeable support of the most powerful country in the world. Israel is not going anywhere. Israel has the wisdom to see the world as it is, but also the courage to see the world as it should be.”
In the same speech, Obama, referring to the Palestinian statehood, a slight deviation from the US' policy for the region, told how Palestinians had also the same rights like Israelis to live without fear of getting killed. “The Palestinian people's right to self-determination and justice must also be recognized. Put yourself in their shoes and look at the world through their eyes.”
“It is not fair that a Palestinian child cannot grow up in a state of their own, living their entire lives with the presence of a foreign (Israeli) army that controls the movements of her parents every single day. It is not just when settler violence against Palestinians goes unpunished. It is not right to prevent Palestinians from farming their lands; to restrict a student's ability to move around the West Bank; or to displace Palestinian families from their home. Neither occupation nor expulsion is the answer. Just as Israelis built a state in their homeland, Palestinians have a right to be a free people in their own land.”
This part of the speech would certainly have made Israeli authorities’ uncomfortable but the earlier part of the speech in which Obama promised unflinching support to Israel’s right to exist would have acted as a balm. But experts believe that Obama wanted to convey Israel, although in a subtle way, that it needs to respect and live up to the democratic ideals. “The answer for Israelis, of course, is that they want a Jewish democracy. That sets up Obama to argue, as others have done, that Israel can’t be Jewish and democratic if it continues to place the Palestinians under occupation,” Max Fisher wrote in The Washington Post.
Peace process between Israel and Palestine is already dead following the Israeli onslaught on Gaza late last year in which around hundred Palestinians (including women and children) were killed and more than seven hundred wounded. The onslaught ended after an Egypt- backed truce following the visit of Hilary Clinton, former US Foreign Secretary.
Echoing the pessimistic view of Obama’s visit, an editorial in the Lebanese Daily Star Thursday said the result will bring Palestinian anger to a whole new level. Obama gave “his country’s full support for the Israelis on several fronts,” adding that “the Palestinians will treat their guest with the sounds of dance, while Israeli bulldozers continue to illegally claim even more Palestinian land for settlements,” the paper wrote.
One might wonder why this level of pessimism exists when Obama has termed the settlements “not appropriate and constructive” for peace process. The answer probably lies in the fact that Obama has urged Abbas to drop demands that Israel halt all settlement activity as a precondition for peace talks. Pertinent to mention, Obama had, in his first term, been explicitly against the new settlements in the territories Israel occupied after the 1967 Arab war.
So, was Obama’s commitment to Palestinian statehood just a rhetorical commitment, Jennifer Rubin writes in The Washington Post: “President Obama's trip will, if nothing else, provide confirmation of a number of conservative critics' observations of his administration."
Summing up the expectations of Palestinians from Obama’s visit, Sami Abdel-Shafi, co-founder and senior partner at Emerge Consulting Group, a management consultancy in Gaza City, writes in Guardian: “It would be unrealistic to expect a breakthrough from President Barack Obama’s visit to Israel, particularly given how pessimistic Palestinians have become over the US administration’s role in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The hope is that the visit does not make things worse.”
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