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Posted on on March 23rd, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (




President Barack Obama, accompanied by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, views the Dead Sea ScrollsPresident Barack Obama, accompanied by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, views the Dead Sea Scrolls at The Israel Museum in Jerusalem, March 21, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

The day ended with a dinner at the residence of President Peres in Jerusalem.


On Friday, the U.S. president visited Israel’s Holocaust memorial, Yad Vashem, where he called for tolerance against others.
“This is our obligation: not simply to bear witness, but to act. For us, in our time, this means confronting bigotry and hatred in all of its forms, racism, especially anti-Semitism, none of that has a place in the civilized world,” Obama said.


Accompanied by Israeli President Shimon Peres and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Obama spoke after viewing the Hall of Names: a circular room ringed by thousands of volumes containing names of people killed in the Holocaust.
During his visit to Israel, the president took part in a wreath-laying ceremony at the graves of Theodor Herzl – the founder of the movement to establish a Jewish state – and slain prime minister Yitzhak Rabin.




President Barack Obama and President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority walk past an honor guard

President Barack Obama and President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority walk past an honor guard at the Mugata Presidential Compound in Ramallah, the West Bank, March 21, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)



Full text of President Obama’s speech in Ramallah

United States President Barack Obama traveled to Ramallah, on the West Bank, where he offered remarks in a joint press conference with President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority.

Obama in Ramallah

U.S. President Barack Obama,  and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at a joint news conference in Ramallah, Thursday, Thursday, March 21, 2013 Photo by AP
President Obama:

Marhaba. Thank you, President Abbas, for your generous words and for welcoming me to Ramallah. I was last here five years ago, and it’s a pleasure to be back — to see the progress that’s happened since my last visit, but also to bear witness to the enduring challenges to peace and security that so many Palestinians seek. I’ve returned to the West Bank because the United States is deeply committed to the creation of an independent and sovereign state of Palestine.
The Palestinian people deserve an end to occupation and the daily indignities that come with it. Palestinians deserve to move and travel freely, and to feel secure in their communities. Like people everywhere, Palestinians deserve a future of hope — that their rights will be respected, that tomorrow will be better than today and that they can give their children a life of dignity and opportunity. Put simply, Palestinians deserve a state of their own.

I want to commend President Abbas and his Prime Minister, Salam Fayyad, for the progress that they’ve made in building the institutions of a Palestinian state. And the United States is a proud partner in these efforts — as the single largest donor of assistance that improves the lives of Palestinians, both in the West Bank and Gaza. As your partner, we salute your achievements and we mourn your losses. We offer condolences, in particular, over the loss of your fellow Palestinians last weekend in the tragic accident in Jordan.

Ramallah is a very different city than the one I visited five years ago. There’s new construction. There’s new businesses, new start-ups, including many high-tech companies, connecting Palestinians to the global economy. The Palestinian Authority is more efficient and more transparent. There are new efforts to combat corruption so entrepreneurs and development can expand. Palestinian security forces are stronger and more professional — serving communities like Bethlehem, where President Abbas and I will visit the Church of the Nativity tomorrow.

Moreover, this progress has been achieved under some extremely challenging circumstances. So I want to pay tribute to President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad for their courage, for their tenacity, and for their commitment to building the institutions upon which a lasting peace and security will depend.

I would point out that all this stands in stark contrast to the misery and repression that so many Palestinians continue to confront in Gaza — because Hamas refuses to renounce violence; because Hamas cares more about enforcing its own rigid dogmas than allowing Palestinians to live freely; and because too often it focuses on tearing Israel down rather than building Palestine up. We saw the continuing threat from Gaza again overnight, with the rockets that targeted Sderot. We condemn this violation of the important cease-fire that protects both Israelis and Palestinians — a violation that Hamas has a responsibility to prevent.

Here in the West Bank, I realize that this continues to be a difficult time for the Palestinian Authority financially. So I’m pleased that in recent weeks the United States has been able to provide additional assistance to help the Palestinian Authority bolster its finances. Projects through USAID will help strengthen governance, rule of law, economic development, education and health. We consider these to be investments in a future Palestinian state — investments in peace, which is in all of our interests.

And more broadly, in our discussions today I reaffirmed to President Abbas that the United States remains committed to realizing the vision of two states, which is in the interests of the Palestinian people, and also in the national security interest of Israel, the United States, and the world. We seek an independent, a viable and contiguous Palestinian state as the homeland of the Palestinian people, alongside the Jewish State of Israel — two nations enjoying self-determination, security and peace.

As I have said many times, the only way to achieve that goal is through direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians themselves. There is no shortcut to a sustainable solution.

In our discussion with President Abbas, I heard him speak eloquently about the difficult issues that cannot be ignored — among them, problems caused by continued settlement activities, the plight of Palestinian prisoners, and access to holy sites in Jerusalem. I understand that the status quo isn’t really a status quo, because the situation on the ground continues to evolve in a direction that makes it harder to reach a two-state solution. And I know that the Palestinian people are deeply frustrated.

So one of my main messages today — the same message I’m conveying in Israel — is that we cannot give up. We cannot give up on the search for peace, no matter how hard it is. As I said with Prime Minister Netanyahu yesterday, we will continue to look for steps that both Israelis and Palestinians can take to build the trust and the confidence upon which lasting peace will depend. And I very much appreciate hearing President Abbas’s ideas on what those steps could be.

I want both sides to know that as difficult as the current situation is, my administration is committed to doing our part. And I know that Secretary of State John Kerry intends to spend significant time, effort, and energy in trying to bring about a closing of the gap between the parties. We cannot give up on the search for peace. Too much is at stake.

And if we’re going to succeed, part of what we’re going to have to do is to get out of some of the formulas and habits that have blocked progress for so long. Both sides are going to have to think anew. Those of us in the United States are going to have to think anew. But I’m confident that we can arrive at our destination to advance the vision of two nations, two neighbors at peace — Israel and Palestine.

If given the chance, one thing that I’m very certain of is that the Palestinians have the talent, the drive, and the courage to succeed in their own state. I think of the villages that hold peaceful protests because they understand the moral force of nonviolence. I think of the importance that Palestinian families place on education. I think of the entrepreneurs determined to create something new, like the young Palestinian woman I met at the entrepreneurship summit that I hosted who wants to build recreation centers for Palestinian youth. I think of the aspirations that so many young Palestinians have for their future — which is why I’m looking forward to visiting with some of them right after we conclude this press conference.

That’s why we can’t give up, because of young Palestinians and young Israelis who deserve a better future than one that is continually defined by conflict. Whenever I meet these young people, whether they’re Palestinian or Israeli, I’m reminded of my own daughters, and I know what hopes and aspirations I have for them. And those of us in the United States understand that change takes time but it is also possible, because there was a time when my daughters could not expect to have the same opportunities in their own country as somebody else’s daughters.

What’s true in the United States can be true here as well. We can make those changes, but we’re going to have to be determined. We’re going to have to have courage. We’re going to have to be willing to break out of the old habits, the old arguments, to reach for that new place, that new world. And I want all the people here and throughout the region to know that you will have the President of the United States and an administration that is committed to achieving that goal.

By Alon Pinkas | Mar.22,2013
And  FROM GAZA: With no clear peace initiatives to push, US President Barack Obama has received a mixed reception on his visit to Israel and the West Bank from Palestinians, writes Hazem Balousha.

Original Title:  Obama Receives Mixed Reception on Mideast Visit
Author: Hazem Balousha
Translated by: Sahar Ghoussoub

While the visit of US President Barack Obama to Palestine and Israel attracted a great deal of Palestinian media attention, ordinary Palestinian people have been occupied with meeting the needs of their everyday life. The Palestinian political factions, on the other hand, have not been pleased with the American president’s visit and the negative position of the American administration toward the Palestinian cause.

Hamas expressed pessimism about Obama’s visit. Obama visited Ramallah, the city of Hamas’ rival, President Mahmoud Abbas. In a brief statement, Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas’ prime minister, said, “We do not expect that Obama’s visit would lead to any breakthrough in the political equation on the ground. We do not believe that the American policy will help end the occupation. On the contrary, Washington seeks to consolidate and legalize settlements under the banner of peace.”

Haniyeh warned the Palestinian Authority against returning to the negotiating table with Israel under US pressure. “The PA should realize that its future depends on the degree of its commitment to national principles and achieving a deeply entrenched reconciliation,” he said.

In the defense of the Islamic Republic , which is the biggest supporter of Hamas financially and politically, Haniyeh said, “We also reject all efforts designed to make Iran be perceived as the enemy of Arabs instead of Israel, despite our differences regarding some issues.”

Obama was warmly received by the PA during his visit to the cities of Ramallah and Bethlehem, while his photo, along with the American flag, were burned during a march organized by Palestinian factions in Gaza City, in protest at the visit.

Salah Bardawil, spokesman for Hamas, said, “Obama’s speech in Ramallah was a humanitarian speech, in which he appeared as a failed political analyst trying to elude critical questions. He failed to commit to the pledges he has made and is seeking to force the PA to re-launch bilateral negotiations with Israel without any references.”

He added, “Obama has also condemned the resistance, while exonerating the Zionist aggression. The president claimed that he supported the Gaza Strip. He clearly demonstrated his support by sending US-made phosphorous bombs and F-16 warplanes, used to attack the children of Gaza.”

Bardawil stressed Hamas’ refusal of the political settlement, saying that the movement will continue to resist as it is the only way to liberate the land, achieve self-rule and get prisoners released.

The Islamic Jihadist movement in Gaza agreed with Hamas that Obama’s visit aims at pressuring the Palestinian people and the PA to bring forth a political settlement based on American requirements.

In this context, Khaled al-Batch, a leader in the jihadist movement said that “this visit is not to the Palestinian’s people’s advantage. It rather serves the interests of the ‘Jewish State’ and the Israeli military superiority over Palestinians.”

On another note, rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip on Thursday before the arrival of Obama to Ramallah, landing in the southern Israeli town of Sderot, causing damage to a house. During his press conference with Abbas, the US President condemned this attack.

He noted that Palestinians in Gaza are continually confronted with “misery and repression … because Hamas refuses to renounce violence.” He then added, “We saw the continuing threat from Gaza overnight, with the rockets that targeted Sderot.”

Hamas implicitly denied responsibility. The group’s spokesman, Taher al Nunu said in a statement that “The resistance has nothing to do with the rockets, especially as they have been fired during this timing.”

On the other hand, Hizb ut-Tahrir organized marches in protest at Obama’s visit in different areas in Gaza, where protesters raised banners that read “Obama, the child murderer, is not welcomed,” “America is the greatest evil. It must be the enemy,” and “Terrorist America sanctions the killing of Muslims under the pretext of terrorism.”

For his part, Mukhaimar Abu Saada, a political analyst, believes that the visit is positive in general and that Obama’s speech in Ramallah was negative and positive at the same time. He assured his listeners that Palestine is a sovereign independent state. Regarding the settlements, the president said that settlements do not enhance the chances of peace, reneging on what he had said to the American administration to this effect.

Saada explained that Palestinian factions hold Obama accountable for his record during the past four years and for not committing to the promises he made during his speech in Cairo in 2009. The expert said that these positions of the Palestinian factions are defensible, since the American president visits the region to listen only without setting forth any initiative to reach a solution to the Palestinian-Israeli dilemma.

The left-wing Popular Front took the same stance as Hamas towards Obama’s visit. “Obama’s speech is merely sweet talking, as was the case during his first mandate. There is a great discrepancy between his speech about a Palestinian state for the Palestinian people and the American efforts made to prevent the resolution of the UN Security Council to this effect,” said Kaed al-Ghoul, the Front’s spokesman.

The most significant outcome of Obama’s visit to Ramallah is that the US has resumed financing and political supporting. Negotiations, however, are not likely to be resumed any time soon, especially in light of the gap between the Palestinian and Israeli sides regarding settlements. This could pave the way to a new round of mutual accusations between Palestinian factions, mainly between Hamas, on the one hand, and the Palestinian president and Fatah on the other.

Hazem Balousha is a Palestinian journalist based in Gaza City, with a Master of International Relations from Turkey, as well as a BA in journalism. He has worked as a news producer for BBC World Service, as well as contributed to The Guardian (UK), Deutsche Welle (Germany), Al-Raya (Qatar) and many other publications.


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