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article imageOp-Ed: Rockets hit Israel 1st 24 hours of Obama's visit; Abbas condemns

By Karl Gotthardt     Mar 21, 2013 in Politics
Ramallah - The reality of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was highlighted when militants in Gaza fired rockets into southern Israel, an attack condemned by Palestinian President Abbas. The rockets hit the backyard of a house in the city of Sderot.

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President Obama is meeting with Palestinian officials on Thursday to convey his message that the US is committed to the creation of a Palestinian state, which remains a priority for his administration. Yesterday the US president told Israelis that there is an unbreakable bond between the two nations and vowed an eternal alliance.
“I see this visit as an opportunity to reaffirm the unbreakable bond between our two nations,” Mr. Obama said in brief remarks on the tarmac after Mr. Peres and Mr. Netanyahu praised Washington’s support for Israel.
Obama traveled to the West Bank to meet with Palestinian officials. Obama was greeted with a short official ceremony ahead of his meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The meeting, which was held a few hours after rockets were fired into the southern Israeli city of Sderot, was accompanied by protests. Hundreds of Palestinian voiced their anger over the meeting. The Palestinian Authority used the meeting to condemn the rocket attacks.
We condemn violence against civilians, no matter where it originates," Abbas was quoted as saying. "We are in favor of establishing mutual and comprehensive calm in the Gaza Strip, and therefore I supported the agreement Hamas and Israel reached through Egyptian mediation."
This is President Obama's first official visit to Israel since he took office and the president has been criticized for not visiting Israel during his first term, in view of his Cairo speech, shortly after taking office in 2009.
Although Obama is not bringing any new plans for restarting peace talks, he is expected to urge both sides to halt unilateral actions, which will make peace talks more difficult. This includes the continued construction of settlements on land claimed by Palestinians and the continued effort by Palestinians to achieve recognition at the UN, in the absence of a peace agreement.
Obama in a joint press conference with Abbas said that the Palestinians deserve to move freely and are entitled to a state. He said Ramallah was a very different city than it was five years ago, with increased construction and he paid tribute to Abbas for his courage and their commitment to peace. Obama acknowledged the misery and hardship the people in Gaza experienced, but put the blame right at the feet of Hamas, which he said was highlighted by the rocket fire on Sderod.
He said that the US remains committed to the reality of a two state solution, emphasized by his statement that Palestinians deserve a state of their own.
President Obama's visit is a balancing act, which requires that he demonstrate that he is committed to Israel, while at the same time acknowledging the plight of the Palestinian people. He may have struck the right balance by condemning Hamas, but reaffirming the commitment to a two state solution.
Undoubtedly the discussion behind closed doors will not have been as complimentary.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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