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.
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Mahmoud Nizzam, a well-dressed banker sipping an espresso in one of the Middle America-sized booths by a window overlooking downtown Ramallah, says that is exactly the kind of terminology Palestinians have heard before. "She should know that is not only unhelpful, but it will destroy every opportunity for peace. That's how she should have worded it," he says.Skip to next paragraph
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Mr. Nizzam lives in Jenin and works in Nablus, which should be a half-hour commute. But because he must pass through an Israeli checkpoint to leave Jenin, it sometimes takes him two hours. "They're promising to support economic development, but how can I get anything done when it takes that much time to go anywhere?" he asks. "I think Obama's policies are different from those of the last eight years, but unfortunately, I don't know if Obama or Clinton are going to change anything on the ground."
A Hamas-affiliated member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, interviewed in his Ramallah office, suggests that Clinton ought to refuse to deal with the incoming government of Benjamin Netanyahu, the right-wing leader recently elected prime minister, because he does not accept the two-state solution as a way to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He compared the Likud leader's refusal to accept the necessity of a Palestinian state with Hamas's refusal to recognize Israel's right to exist.
"They have said they will deal with the new Israeli government, regardless of what it looks like, but, of course, they continue to put conditions on Palestinian politics and who they will deal with in our society," says Ayman Al-Daraghmeh. "Today, Mrs. Clinton is proving again that they keep repeating themselves and dealing with us by double standards."
At the Palestine Coffee Shop, a less yuppie establishment nearby, middle-aged and elderly men play cards. Here, too, the TV is tuned to the news, but most people seem unfazed. At one table, five vegetable wholesalers are mid-game. Four out of 5 of them – all Fatah supporters – say they expect nothing new from Clinton or President Obama.
But one dissenting voice, Yusuf Hamad, says they should give Clinton a chance. "She pledged money to help the Palestinian Authority. She said two states for two peoples. These have been good words so far," he says.
Back at Stars and Bucks, Nizzam and his friend notice the press conference on TV and continue talking among themselves.
"We already know the quotes by heart," chuckles Ala Al-Arabi, when asked why they hadn't stopped to hear what the new secretary of State had to say. "The people may change, but the politics of the US will stay the same."
He reconsiders. "I think Obama overall will be better than Bush, but we don't see much to be hopeful about; as soon as we got Obama, we also got Netanyahu back," he says.