President Obama’s visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority, scheduled for Wednesday to Friday next week, may spark violent Palestinian protests. In fact, it’s already doing so.
On Wednesday Israel Hayom reported that the previous day Israeli troops had entered a “refugee camp” near Hebron in the West Bank to detain Palestinians caught throwing Molotov cocktails at Israeli vehicles. (Almost two decades after the creation of the Palestinian Authority, these “camps”—neighborhoods—are yet to be dismantled because the Palestinian leadership sees their residents eventually moving en masse to Israel itself.)
The Israeli troops found themselves under a life-endangering hail of rocks; returning fire, they killed a Palestinian named Mahmoud Titi and wounded two others.
Titi’s funeral on Wednesday set off further riots.
The above Israel Hayom report notes that Israeli “defense officials…are concerned that the latest incident could incite a spate of violent disturbances in Judea and Samaria,” and that they “believe…certain Palestinian elements are planning to use U.S. President Barack Obama’s momentous trip to Israel next week as the impetus to stoke disquiet.”
There are also tidings of Palestinian intentions not only to direct protests at Israel but also at Obama himself.
Last week Khaled Abu Toameh reported that Palestinian elements were discussing plans to stage anti-U.S. demonstrations during Obama’s visit, block roads leading to the venue of his meeting with PA president Mahmoud Abbas, and that “some activists have even prepared American flags and portraits of Obama that would be set on fire in front of TV crews covering the visit.”
These activists, Abu Toameh notes, are disappointed with Obama because they see him as tilting toward Israel, especially after he refused to support Abbas’s UN statehood bid in November. They also “believe that Iran, and not the Palestinian issue, is now at the top of his list of priorities.”
And this week the Times of Israel described growing tensions over the visit, with the Palestinian Authority demanding that Obama coordinate his tour of Jerusalem with the PA since the city—Israel’s united capital since 1967—is “occupied territory.”
A grassroots group naming itself Palestinians for Dignity “called on Palestinians to take to the streets and protest [Obama’s] visit.” A “satirical image” on the group’s Facebook page
displays the US president as saying in Arabic, “American support for Israel is sacred and we must help it remain militarily superior.” An angry protester in a photo below responds in English, “this is a Welcome kiss from the Palestinian people, dog,” as he hurls a shoe at Obama, an Arab symbol of disdain.
One thing to be pointed out here is that, based on accounts of Obama’s private meeting with American Jewish leaders last week, the Palestinians are indeed likely to find his visit disappointing. In the meeting Obama reportedly said he would not be bringing a “grand peace plan” and “acknowledged that near-term prospects for peace are bleak.”
Although that probably does not mean Obama has given up the pro-Palestinian ideology that led him, in his June 2009 Cairo speech, to portray the Palestinian issue as the Middle East’s gravest problem, Palestinian self-induced adversity as equivalent to the Holocaust, and Israeli settlement construction as a blatant crime, it may well mean he has too much else on his plate and knows another big pitch for the Palestinians means setting himself up for failure.
And it should also be noted that, the more things change, the more the Palestinians stay the same. No quantity of Israeli offers of peace or negotiations, of lavish international attention and U.S. and European aid, alters the goal of eliminating Israel—whether through war or “refugee” inundation—or the resort to violence and claim of grievance and victimhood. Most Israelis understand this, even if it may be too much to hope that Obama will.
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