Obama Palestine Visit: Will Obama Achieve Any Breakthroughs?
Even the Palestinian leadership themselves admit they're not expecting big things from Obama's visit this week.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas says his top priority is securing the release of over 1,000 prisoners held by Israel, but without a Gilad Shalit to trade, there's basically no possibility of that happening.
A breakthrough in the peace process probably isn't on the horizon, either. For one thing, the new government has barely been formed, as coalition talks finally concluded last week, ensuring at the last minute that Obama will actually have an Israeli government to meet with. With less than a week to prepare for Obama's visit, there's no chance the new government will have a coherent strategy in place for peace talks — it's not even enough time for them to agree on some basic concessions to offer the Palestinians as a starting point.
Compounding the situation is the appointment of Uri Ariel, a member of the pro-settlement Jewish Home party, as housing minister. Ariel has vowed to increase settlement construction, a position that is not especially conducive to peace talks, considering that the Palestinians recently reaffirmed that they will not even enter talks unless a settlement freeze is in place.
One thing the Palestinians may be able to look forward to is money. Secretary of State John Kerry promised to help free up over $700 million in aid to the Palestinian Authority. When Abbas and PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad meet with Obama, they'll have their chance to lobby for the money that's already been committed to them.
Other than this, Obama's visit to Palestine is just about keeping up appearances. He'll visit the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, and he'll tour a youth center with Prime Minister Fayyad. He'll get in a photo op or two, stop briefly back in Israel, and then fly home to carry on the business of being President of the United States. And when he meets with Israel's Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, don't expect him to push the Palestinian issue too much.
This is part two of a two-part analysis of Obama's trip to Israel and Palestine. For a look at what Obama will do in Israel, click HERE.