Palestinians will only have found Barack Obama’s visit to Palestine and Israel disappointing if, before the visit, they had any hopes of the American president taking an interest in their cause. In the event, even if Obama was able to turn on his famous charm, he showed that his administration does not care about the Palestinians, because instead he is focused on Syria and Iran.
When meeting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Obama said that the United States is “deeply committed” to the creation of an “independent, sovereign state of Palestine”. He told Abbas that Israeli building activity in the colonies was not “constructive or appropriate for peace”.
But it was a disaster that Obama did not mention this to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when they met for two days with an unusual degree of personal friendship. Obama put no pressure on Israel to stop its illegal colony-building activities, nor to prepare to evacuate all its colonists from the West Bank. Instead, Obama made a point of agreeing with Netanyahu that Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons programme would be an existential threat to Israel, and that Israel has a right to defend itself.
Netanyahu parroted the words that Israel has a commitment to a two-state solution to resolve the Israel-Palestinian conflict, but he cannot be believed. Netanyahu is the leader of an Israeli government that has not removed even one colony from the West Bank, has restarted building on the West Bank, and launched a savage attack on Gaza in 2009 with a criminal use of banned weapons.
In his famous 2009 speech in Cairo, Obama called the situation of Palestinians “intolerable” and added that “America will not turn its back on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity and a state of their own”.
Despite those fine words, nothing changed on the ground. Four years later, Obama is ignoring Palestine in his preoccupation with challenging Iran and the slowly unfolding tragedy of Syria. This is to the great detriment of the Palestinians, and they deserve better from the great orator of 2009.