Palestinians little moved by Bush visit
In the Shuafat refugee camp in Jerusalem, residents say that Israeli interests will trump theirs despite Bush's vow of a peace deal this year.
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And, because Bush's name is synonymous with the post-9/11 war on terror, many Palestinians treat the US president as if he's the last person who would be able to make Palestinian independence a reality.Skip to next paragraph
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A younger man chimes in: "He makes peace out of killing Muslims."
Just a few blocks away from Abbas's presidential compound, about 40 protesters chanted, "Bush, Bush, Out, Out" and "Palestine, Freedom, Freedom," before being chased away by billy-club swinging policemen.
Demonstrators complained that a curfew imposed by police officers on the residents of central Ramallah to secure the city for Bush had prevented more demonstrators from joining the protest.
"We are against everything that is happening in the Muqata," says Fares Fares, referring to Abbas's compound. "Bush won't stand with us. We don't like Bush because he destroyed the world – Iraq, Afghanistan, and Lebanon. And look how he's imposed a closure on Gaza."
Mustafa Barghouti, a Palestinian parliamentarian, tried to mediate between security forces and the demonstrators.
"The officer said we don't have a permit and that we shouldn't be in the streets," says Mr. Barghouti, who complained that the Palestinian casualties from Israeli attacks have doubled since the Annapolis, Md., peace conference that launched the peace initiative.
"We would be the first to be happy if this were a historic day, and if we achieve a Palestinian state. But the president of the United States of America must stop being biased toward Israel. We are not against the visit, but we are against the bias. We want [Bush] to become better," he says.
Though in the minority, some Palestinians say they did, in fact, detect an evolution in the American position toward the peace process. "This is not like the [President] Clinton visit, when he visited Gaza and was welcomed in the streets with his picture and American flags. The political weather is different now," says Hafez Barghouti, an editor of the daily newspaper Al-Hayat Al-Jedidah. "For the first time Bush spoke about the settlements as an obstacle to peace, and not just the illegal outposts. When the Americans talk about a Palestinian state and building the infrastructure for the Palestinian state, it's very important."
Barghouti also said he was encouraged by Bush's trip from Jerusalem to Ramallah. Heavy fog forced the president to forgo a helicopter and drive by the Israeli military checkpoints that frustrate Palestinians on a daily basis. At least, he remarked, the weather may have helped the Palestinian people.