One of his first acts of business in Israel Wednesday was viewing an Iron Dome missile battery, to display his commitment to Israel’s security. There were no moves such as this planned for the Palestinian leg of his visit – nothing to alleviate Palestinians’ fears and anxieties, as throughout Obama’s presidency, they have seen settlements mushroom across the West Bank’s hilltops at an alarming speed.
The White House has stressed that Obama is here to listen, but Palestinians are doubtful that message is aimed at them, considering the US president will only spend about four hours in the West Bank (out of a total of 50 hours for his Middle East visit). This lies in stark contrast with the time he will have spent in Israel where on Friday he will also visit the graves of Yitzhak Rabin, the assassinated Israeli prime minister, and Theodor Herzl, the founder of modern Zionism.
Palestinians were hoping Obama would take a trip to the southern West Bank city of Hebron, where a regime of segregation between Palestinians and Israeli settlers makes the pre-civil rights United States look like Switzerland.
Or perhaps he could meet with relatives of Palestinian prisoners, many of whom have launched long-term hunger strikes to protest their arrest and incarceration without charge by Israeli authorities. Even Obama’s journey from Israel to Ramallah is scheduled to take place by helicopter, thereby bypassing the wall that snakes its way around much of the West Bank, annexing land into Israel and separating the holy city of Jerusalem from its Palestinian suburbs.
This morning, Obama met with Abbas, whom many of his constituents feel has outlived his mandate. During his time, Palestinians managed to update their status at the United Nations, but that was not enough to offset the seething anger rippling through the streets over the status quo: an economy in shambles, a political stalemate, and more land confiscation for Israeli settlements.