Barack Obama's Visit to Israel Fails To Ignite Faded Peace Hopes — On Either Side

Israelis and Palestinians United in Bleak Outlook

An Eternity Ago: Then-candidate Barack Obama meets with Israeli Pinhas Amar to see damage from Palestinian rockets in his home in Sderot. Amar was impressed with Obama, but has become disillusioned in the four years since.
getty images
An Eternity Ago: Then-candidate Barack Obama meets with Israeli Pinhas Amar to see damage from Palestinian rockets in his home in Sderot. Amar was impressed with Obama, but has become disillusioned in the four years since.

By Reuters

Published March 14, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Multi Page

Five years ago, a few months after a Palestinian rocket crashed through his kitchen ceiling, Pinhas Amar received a more welcome guest at his southern Israeli home - Barack Obama, then running for president of the United States.

Amar holds up a picture he now keeps in a back room - unframed and glued to thin cardboard with crumpled corners - of himself showing the missile damage to Obama. He was impressed by the candidate, he says. The president Obama became: less so.

“He promised me he would make sure there would be no more rockets,” said 53-year-old Amar, whose wife was injured in the December 2007 missile attack. “It is quieter today, but I am not optimistic. This calm will not last very long.”

If there is one thing that seems to unite Israelis and Palestinians days before Obama’s visit to Israel, the occupied West Bank and Jordan next week, it is their talk of broken promises and lack of hope that he will ever bring peace.

Across the frontier, in Gaza, Badiaa Anbar, 53, was demonstrating with other parents for the release of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. Her own son, she said, was imprisoned 18 years ago for being affiliated with militants.

Despite initial pledges to work hard for a Palestinian state, Obama has turned out to be no different than any of his predecessors, she said.

“Obama’s promises were as deceiving as a mirage. None of these promises came true.”

ONLY WORDS

In his first term Obama started off by making peace between Israelis and Palestinians a top priority. His 2009 “new beginning” speech in Cairo raised Palestinian hopes of establishing a state in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza, territories Israel captured in a 1967 Middle East war.

But those hopes plunged when U.S.-brokered peace talks collapsed in 2010, only weeks after they began. Israel ignored Obama’s call to halt the construction of Jewish settlements in the West Bank; the Palestinians refuse to talk as long as settlements are being built.

This time around Obama’s administration is wary of risking its credibility on efforts to revive talks. The White House has said there would be no launch of a diplomatic initiative during the trip.

In the market of Gaza’s Beach refugee camp, Baha al-Haddad, 45, a public servant, predicted nothing would come of Obama’s visit. “He will make another speech and make promises but it will only be words without fulfilment,” he said.

In November last year, days after Obama’s election to a second term, Israel and Hamas, the Islamist movement that rules the Gaza Strip, fought an eight-day war in which some 170 Palestinians and six Israelis were killed.

Gaza was pummelled by air, land and sea while rockets exploded in Israeli towns, including Sderot, just across the border from the enclave.

The United States funds Israel’s missile interceptor system, Iron Dome, which blew up many of the incoming rockets. Nevertheless, some Sderot residents do not believe Obama has their best interests at heart.

“It would be disastrous without Iron Dome,” said Yaffa Malka, 49, a hairdresser who has lived in Sderot her entire life. “But all he (Obama) cares about is talking about a Palestinian state and not how to stop Hamas arming itself.”

WEST BANK

In the occupied West Bank, mistrust of Obama is one of the only things Palestinians and Israeli settlers share.

“I don’t think Obama’s a player. I don’t think he’s proved to be effective on either side really, not on the Arab side and not on the Jewish side and no one really cares what he has to say,” said Aliza Herbst, 60, a yoga teacher and former settler spokeswoman.

In the past year, the White House has voiced condemnation of Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank, which U.S. presidents have described for decades as an obstacle to peace.

“I didn’t know how bad he would be for Israel,” Herbst said, sitting in her sunny garden in Ofra settlement, where she has been living for the past 31 years. “He’s probably one of the most anti-Israel presidents, certainly in my lifetime and maybe in the history of the United States.”

The Obama administration rejects the suggestion that he is less supportive of Israel than previous U.S. presidents, and points to strong cooperation with Israel on security matters.

Meanwhile, despite failing to win over many Israelis, Obama also lost support among Palestinians last year when he opposed a successful Palestinian bid for recognition as a de facto state by the U.N. Generally Assembly.

In the West Bank town of Tubas, Loai Dawwas, a 41-year-old pharmacist, said Obama’s rejection of the U.N. recognition bid quashed Palestinian faith in him.

“He is a man of speeches like the speech he had gave in Cairo, but what did he implement of those promises? Nothing. And he will not do anything useful for us. America is good for Israel only,” Dawwas said.

Mohammad Zaid, a grocer in the Palestinian city of Ramallah, also predicted Obama’s visit would lead nowhere, even as change is sweeping through other countries in the region.

“The Arab world is a mess. Look at Libya, Syria, Egypt. Palestine is an easier issue than all that. But we don’t think Obama is going to change anything,” Zaid said.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • What do you think?
  • "To everyone who is reading this article and saying, “Yes, but… Hamas,” I would ask you to just stop with the “buts.” Take a single moment and allow yourself to feel this tremendous loss. Lay down your arms and grieve for the children of Gaza."
  • Professor Dan Markel, 41 years old, was found shot and killed in his Tallahassee home on Friday. Jay Michaelson can't explain the death, just grieve for it.
  • Employees complained that the food they received to end the daily fast during the holy month of Ramadan was not enough (no non-kosher food is allowed in the plant). The next day, they were dismissed.
  • Why are peace activists getting beat up in Tel Aviv? http://jd.fo/s4YsG
  • Backstreet's...not back.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.