Know More About Palestine

Thursday Sept. 22, 2011 6:17 PM (EST+7)

RAMALLAH, West Bank, Sept 22 (Tom Perry/Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama's opposition to the Palestinians' bid for membership of the United Nations is turning their deep disappointment with his Middle East policy to outright anger.

The burning of an American flag during a protest this week was an isolated incident, but one which captured a mood.

People are getting more frustrated. Frustration always breeds anger, said one Palestinian official who asked not to be named, giving a private assessment of public feeling.

Recently, signs advertising U.S. financial support for Palestinian West Bank development projects have been vandalized, one sprayed with the word Veto -- the fate the Obama administration has in store for the Palestinian U.N. bid.

Regardless of American warnings, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas plans to submit the application for recognition of Palestinian statehood and full U.N. membership on Friday at the U.N. General Assembly in New York.

A few hundred protesters took to the streets of Ramallah on Thursday after Obama's speech to the gathering the night before.

It was totally disappointing, not only to us but to many people in this world. It was full of double standards, said Mustafa Barghouti, a Palestinian politician and activist who ran for the presidency in 2005.

Demonstrators contrasted Obama's support for freedom in the Arab world with what they saw as meek words on their struggle for self-determination on land occupied by Israel in 1967.

In reality, when we need them, we find that they are the ones who most conspire against the state of Palestine, against the destiny of the Palestinian people, said Nazih Qabaha, 30.

We no longer have any faith in U.S. policy. Regardless of who the president is, it is the same policy, added Qabaha, an employee of the Palestinian Authority which is relying on U.S. funding for around 16 percent of its budget this year.

In his speech, Obama reiterated U.S. support for the establishment of a Palestinian state but alluded to his opposition to their direct bid for U.N. membership -- a position Palestinians believe reflects Washington's bias towards Israel.


Frustration with U.S. policy is one of the main reasons behind Abbas' U.N. initiative. Palestinian officials have presented it as an attempt to break the U.S. monopoly over Middle East peace diplomacy by involving other powers.

U.S. policy towards the Middle East conflict has long appeared pro-Israel to Palestinians. By far the weaker party in the negotiations, the Palestinians were always dependent on Washington's help to get their own state in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem.

President George H.W. Bush is remembered as the last U.S. leader to exert serious pressure on Israel when he temporarily withheld loan guarantees to press the Israelis for a freeze on settlement building. But that was 20 years ago, at the very outset of a peace process now widely seen as a failure.

Exasperation with Obama is compounded by the high hopes Palestinians harbored early on in his presidency that he too was ready to get tough on Israel.

He initially called on Israel to halt settlement activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem to smooth peace negotiations. But he then backed off, leaving Abbas in the lurch.

The U.S. Congress has threatened to review the roughly $500 million in annual aid Washington gives to the Palestinians if they seek full membership at the United Nations.

The funds are spent on everything from rebuilding roads to paying the salaries of the PA's 150,000 employees.

Protesters in Ramallah, many of whom work for the PA, said it might be time for Palestinians to rethink their relationship with the United States, even if it meant financial pain.

Our alliance with America has not brought us anything, said Amina al-Akhras, a PA employee, blaming reliance on international donor funds for what she described as a state of lethargy among Palestinians living under Israeli occupation.

We are ready to sacrifice their support and instead have a stronger national position, she said. (Editing by Mark Heinrich)






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