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No Hope, No Change: Palestinians Vent Anger at US Policy During Obama Visit to Ramallah

The action was well contained by Western-trained and financed Palestinian security forces as the president met with Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas.

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Abbas voiced strong opposition to illegal Israeli settlements as well at his appearance with Obama. “Everybody views settlements not only as a hurdle, but more than a hurdle to a two-state solution,” said the PA president. “We are asking for nothing outside the international legitimacy. It is the responsibility of the Israeli government to halt settlement activities so we can at least speak.”

The meeting with Obama came as a report in the  New York Times revealed that Abbas was so desperate to return to negotiations that he was prepared to allow Netanyahu to pledge to him “secretly that he will stop settlement activities during the period of negotiations.” But any freeze in settlements in Israel would likely cause great consternation within Netanyahu’s coalition, which is dominated by supporters of expanding the illegal West Bank settlements. And Palestinians are largely fed up with a "peace process" that has delivered nothing but Israeli settlement expansion.

The issue of Palestinian prisoners was given a  passing mention during Obama’s meeting with Abbas. But it is an issue that looms large for most Palestinians, unites Palestinian society and has galvanized popular protests. The demonstrators in Ramallah had the issue of Palestinian prisoners clearly on their minds, as chants about the prisoners were shouted and a poster of Marwan Barghouti, an imprisoned Palestinian leader, was held up high. 

President Obama was given a letter from Palestinian prisoners’ families urging him to intervene on the prisoner issue, and particularly on behalf of the hunger striker Samer Issawi,  according to Ma'an. Issawi, who was released as part of the Gilad Shalit deal  and re-arrested nine months later, has been on hunger strike for 232 days in protest of "his re-arrest and re-trial based on secret information," according to the Palestinian prisoner rights' organization Addameer.

At around noon, clashes between the Israeli army and about 100 Palestinian protesters in support of Issawi broke out near Ofer Prison, though Issawi was reportedly too sick to attend his scheduled military hearing there,  which has been pushed back to April. "The military court in Ofer has scheduled three further hearings for Samer Issawi in May, when Israeli intelligence will present secret information about Issawi's case. Neither Issawi nor his lawyer are allowed at these hearings,"  Ma'an reported earlier today.

At the clashes, flags representing the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), a leftist political faction, flew high. Issawi is a member of the DFLP.

The Israeli army fired tear gas as protesters gathered in support of hunger striker Samer Issawi (Photo: Alex Kane/Mondoweiss)

Israeli soldiers on a hill launched tear gas round after tear gas round as young Palestinians threw rocks and burned tires. Rubber bullets were fired by the Israeli military, which  injured several protesters. The clashes went on for several hours.

But the frequent clashes with the Israeli military are a part of life in Palestine that Obama did not speak about, or see. 

Alex Kane is AlterNet's New York-based World editor, and an assistant editor for Mondoweiss. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

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