US President Barack Obama is due to arrive in the West Bank city
of Ramallah today for talks with Palestinian Authority President
Mahmoud Abbas. The Israel-Palestinian conflict is likely to be at
the core of the talks with Abbas.
Obama, who will make his first official visit as U.S. president to
the West Bank, said he will not bring any new initiatives to try
to revive long-dormant peace talks and has instead come to Israel
and the Palestinian territories for simple consultations.
The American leader will only spend a few hours in Ramallah,
before heading to Jerusalem to give a speech. After his trip to
the West Bank, Obama is expected to deliver a speech to Israeli
students in Jerusalem. He will leave for Jordan on Friday.
Obama is coming to Ramallah by helicopter for meetings with
Palestinian leaders in the West Bank at the presidential
headquarters, the Muqata.
The prisoners' minister will hand him a
letter from Palestinian detainees in Israeli jails.
then briefly visit a youth centre here to see a project funded by
There is deep disappointment among Palestinians that Obama
has not done more to support their bid for an independent state.
PLO official Nabil Shaath suggests he "won the hearts of
Palestinians" in his 2009 Cairo speech when he said "the only
resolution is for the aspirations of both sides to be met through
two states" but laments the president's "lack of determination" to
bring about negotiations.
Palestinians want to show Obama how the
rapid expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank threatens
to fatally undermine a two-state solution to the conflict with
Israel. However they do not expect to achieve much during his few
Obama made his first trip to Israel as president yesterday,
holding talks with PM Benjamin Netanyahu, BBC reported.
leaders reaffirmed their commitment to a two-state solution to the
Speaking in Jerusalem, Obama said a
central element of securing a lasting peace in the Middle East
"must be a strong and secure Jewish state where its security
concerns are met, alongside a sovereign and independent
Meanwhile, Israeli police said two rockets had been fired from
Gaza into southern Israel on Thursday morning.
“One exploded in
the backyard of a house in Sderot, causing damage and the second
landed in a field,” police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told AFP,
referring to a town very close to the Gaza border, which was
visited by Obama when he last visited as a senator in 2008.
have been no reports of injuries or casualties.
The BBC's Jon Donnison in Ramallah says the West Bank meeting
could prove a difficult corner to turn, after Obama also declared
that the US was Israel's strongest ally.
Palestinians have been
disappointed with the American leader and expectations are low.
a 2009 speech in Cairo, Obama called the situation for
Palestinians "intolerable" and spoke of their undeniable suffering
in pursuit of a homeland.
Since then, however, little has
changed on the ground as the Middle East's most intractable
conflict has been sidelined by the Arab Spring, and US-Israeli
concern over Syria and Iran. Following the talks in Jerusalem,
Netanyahu said his new government, sworn in earlier this week,
remained "fully committed to peace and the solution of two
"We extend our
hands in peace and friendship to the Palestinian people," he said,
adding that he hoped Obama's visit would "turn a page" in
relations with the Palestinians. But the two leaders also said
they agreed that Israel had the right to "defend itself by
Security for his three-day visit is tight, with thousands of
Israeli and Palestinian security officers on duty in Jerusalem and
Ramallah, the Palestinians' de facto capital.
Both Israeli and
Palestinian groups have staged protests in the run-up to Obama's
There were clashes in Hebron in the West Bank between
Israeli settlers and pro-Palestinian protesters calling for an end
to "apartheid", and in Gaza City protesters burned US flags
outside UN offices.
Posters depicting Obama were defaced in the
West Bank cities of Ramallah and Bethlehem earlier this week and
anti-U.S. sentiment bubbled up on social media.
“Do Not Enter,”
said one poster put up on Facebook, showing Obama’s face with a
red line crossed through it. “The people of Palestine do not
welcome you here.”