In March 2013, US President Barack Obama paid his first visit to Israel and the West Bank. Obama held bilateral talks with both Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. While visiting the West Bank, Obama’s convoy encountered protesters frustrated about living conditions in the West Bank. In the Dheisheh refugee camp in Bethlehem, protesters lamented American political support for Israel, while demonstrators in Ramallah raised the issue of Israeli restrictions on 3G telecommunications networks. Obama’s visit served to reinvigorate Obama and Netanyahu’s personal relationship, as the relationship was strained by inability to compromise on halting settlement construction. Most importantly, Obama’s visit demonstrated an American willingness to prioritize the peace process in the region.
On the last day of Obama’s visit, the US State Department announced the unfreezing of $500 million in aid money to revitalize the Palestinian economy, which was previously blocked after the Palestinian bid for non-member status in the UN General Assembly. However, this money would only be available if negotiations restarted. Obama’s decision to send Secretary of State John Kerry back to the region after his visit underscored his commitment to working towards a solution to the conflict. To learn more about President Obama’s first visit to Israel, read this.
IPCRI challenges Secretary Kerry to turn Obama’s meeting into more than showmanship, and begin generating sustainable resolutions to the many issues of the conflict. IPCRI recognizes the importance of individual policy-makers and personal connections between politicians; we commend Obama on his decision to visit both Israel and the West Bank, and his meetings with both sides. In attempting to find a solution to the conflict, it is vital to retain an understanding of both sides’ cultures, as well as their needs. We take a unique view on how to best transform the conflict and we identify the different needs of the two societies. For the Palestinian society, our projects focus on capacity building, and for the Israeli society we work towards raising awareness. Are you are interested in taking a tour of the West Bank to learn more about Palestinian culture and day-to-day life?