Palestinians wonder: Will Obama make good on his promises?
Though pleased with Obama's meeting with Palestinian President Abbas Thursday, they are waiting to see if the US president will break from decades of failed US policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Ramallah, West Bank
Palestinians watched with hope this week as President Barack Obama called for an Israeli settlement freeze and spoke about the need to move quickly toward statehood alongside President Mahmoud Abbas at the White House.Skip to next paragraph
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But despite the clear signal of a shift, there is caution in the West Bank and Gaza as Palestinians judge whether the administration has the mettle to make good on promises which have become all too familiar.
"Obama has new speech, but not yet a strategy," says Mohammed Khirresh, a Palestinian economist and political analyst, speaking on the sidelines of a Ramallah policy conference sponsored by the Palestinian Center for Media and Research. "The criterion for Obama's new strategy is whether I can see it on the ground and touch it. Otherwise, it's empty words."
Despite his charm and message of change, Obama must still overcome a deficit from decades of failed US policy on mediating an Israeli-Palestinian peace.
Palestinians are weary of a peace process that has been long on talk and short on dividends, and that has eroded the credibility of the president's diplomatic pulpit. There are also questions whether one president has the political ability to buck decades of US partiality toward Israel.
Palestinians applaud US pressure on Israel
Still, the new US administration has won a degree of credit with Palestinians by immediately pushing for a resumption of peace negotiations on the creation of a Palestinian state.
Moreover, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton demanded this week an unequivocal cessation of Israeli building in the West Bank, a rare public admission of a deep policy difference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who insists that construction must continue to allow for the "natural growth" of existing settlements.
Palestinians were disappointed that the mediation efforts by the Clinton and Bush administrations came up short and seemed slanted in Israel's favor.
"The Obama administration has shown seriousness in terms of early engagement," says Nasser al-Kidwa, a former Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister. "We should be ready to do our part to fulfill our commitments."