Clinton visit: In a West Bank café, Palestinians ask how much will change
Patrons at 'Stars and Bucks' critique her statements. 'We already know the quotes by heart,' one says.
Ramallah, West Bank
If there is any place in this de facto capital of the West Bank where all things American are welcomed, it's here at Stars and Bucks – an unabashed Starbucks knockoff complete with green-and-white logo, cozy couches, and myriad mochas and lattes.Skip to next paragraph
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But even as US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was visiting the Palestinian territories for the first time since her appointment, men and women here took little interest in the fact that their president, Mahmoud Abbas, was standing side by side with her, giving a joint press conference following their first meeting.
Mrs. Clinton, a day after meeting with Israeli officials, reiterated her belief in a two-state solution with Israel and spoke passionately about Palestinian suffering and the right of a Palestinian child to live a normal, secure life, just like a child "growing up in any country."
But she faces an uphill battle in convincing Palestinians – and others across the Arab world – that the Obama administration is substantially different from its predecessor, while also maintaining the "special relationship" that has been a cornerstone of Middle East policy since her husband, Bill Clinton, was in office.
"We don't want talk, we want action," grumbles Murad Akhbar, a café employee. "It's all empty words."
On a big TV screen, Clinton is still talking, promising that the Obama administration "will be vigorously engaged in the pursuit of a two-state solution every step of the way." She adds, looking away from her notes and to Mr. Abbas: "This is a commitment that I carry in my heart, not just in my portfolio."
Clinton is on the third day of her trip to the region, which began with her attendance Monday at an aid conference for Gaza reconstruction. While some Palestinians here were appreciative of the $900 million the US pledged – out of a total of $4.4 billion raised – many others were skeptical that it would signal the policy correction they feel is necessary: a return to a role as an honest broker and a retreat from what is largely perceived as a bias toward Israel.
Questioned by a reporter about Israel's plans to demolish more than 80 Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem, Clinton said that this was "unhelpful," a term her predecessor, Condoleezza Rice, regularly used to describe Israeli settlement growth in the West Bank. "It is an issue that we intend to raise with the government of Israel and the government at the municipal level in Jerusalem," Clinton said. (Read the Monitor's story on Israel's plans to demolish the homes here.)