Palestinian Authority sends opposition figure to deliver rebuke of Obama 21Mar13 March 21, 2013

by Amira Hass     -     Haaretz     -    20 March 2013

3700738246The silence from the leaders of the Palestinian Authority before U.S. President Barack Obama‘s visit thundered even louder on Monday, when some 20 journalists from the international press received a briefing in Ramallah from Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, head of the Palestinian National Initiative movement and a regular participant in protests against the army.

It seems that in the office of PA President Mahmoud Abbas, where they spoke with Barghouti before the briefing, they preferred that Barghouti, a member of the PLO’s central committee and an opposition voice to the PA, be the one to pass on the pan-Palestinian message of disappointment and lack of expectations from Obama.

The passivity of international diplomacy and that of the Americans in particular, said Barghouti, is especially dangerous and unacceptable in the face of the establishment of an even more extremist, settlement-expanding Israeli government than its predecessor. This Obama policy speeds up the end of the two-state solution, he said, adding that he will recommend to every Palestinian leader to tell this to the American president.

At the beginning of his presidency Obama raised expectations when he called for a halt to construction in the settlements, but he quickly abandoned this demand and now only expects that the Palestinians renew the barren negotiations that have gone on for 20 years, Barghouti said.

All that Israel expects from the Palestinians in the negotiations is to agree to self-rule in bantustans – something no Palestinian and none of their leaders will accept, he continued. Barghouti said he regretted that the little time allocated to Obama’s visit in the West Bank will prevent him from seeing how ethnic separation operates in Hebron, or how discrimination on Israel’s part is expressed in the division of water sources between Israelis and Palestinians.

Even though there is a positive dimension to a visit by an American president to Ramallah and Bethlehem, after the recognition in the United Nations of Palestine as a non-member state, Barghouti also noted a number of negative aspects to the visit, in his opinion: While Obama will place a wreath on the grave of Yitzhak Rabin, he will not include in his Ramallah itinerary the grave of Yasser Arafat.

Obama also refused to meet with the daughter of a Palestinian prisoner, and he will visit the Israel Museum, where archaeological finds stolen from the Palestinian territories are exhibited, said Barghouti.

He noted that he had personally been encouraged by Obama’s election, which could not have happened without the success of the civil rights movement against segregation in the United States. He said he hoped that this president would be the one who could appreciate the nonviolent Palestinian struggle against the Israeli occupation and express his support for it. Maybe such a miracle will happen after he visits the Church of the Nativity, said Barghouti.

Every responsible Palestinian leader must tell Obama: Either construction of the settlements stops immediately or the death of the two-state solution should finally be declared, he said. After Obama’s visit, the PLO must speed up the process of being accepted in the various UN bodies, and in particular should file a petition to the International Criminal Court over the settlements, he stressed. Demonstrations in the occupied territories should be intensified along with the BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement against Israel, such as those during the time of the apartheid regime in South Africa, said Barghouti.

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