Palestinians Welcome Obama to Israel With Protests

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
March 20 2013 10:19 AM

Palestinians to Obama: "You Promised Hope and Change—You Gave Us Colonies and Apartheid"

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Palestinians wearing masks of President Obama and Martin Luther King, Jr. wave flags during a protest in Hebron

Photo by HAZEM BADER/AFP/Getty Images

High hopes and low expectations. That’s probably the best way to describe President Obama’s much anticipated trip to Israel that begins today. And while Israel laid out the red carpet, a small group of Palestinians organized protests, with activists wearing “I have a dream” T-shirts and masks with the faces of Obama and Martin Luther King, Jr., reports +972. Also, some 500 people put up 15 tents on privately owned land, where Israel intends to build new settler houses. Activists there were holding up signs reading, “You promised hope and change—you gave us colonies and apartheid.”

Meanwhile, as Obama descended from the plane for his first official visit to Israel, the word of the day seemed to be “unbreakable.” President Obama spoke of the “unbreakable bond” between Israel and the United States, while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu referred to the “unbreakable alliance” between the two countries, reports NBC News. U.S. officials have made it clear Obama has gone to Israel to listen, and has no new initiatives to offer, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t high hopes for the trip to mend what has often been a tense relationship over the past few years.

"It is the most dysfunctional relationship in the history of U.S.-Israeli relations," former U.S. Mideast negotiator Aaron David Miller told CNN. "There is no real sense of confidence or trust. There is no capacity to give the other the benefit of the doubt."

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But even though Netanyahu clearly supported Romney in the presidential election, and Obama has been overheard complaining about the Israeli leader, they’re both acting like old pals, joking around as soon as Obama got off the plane. A hot microphone caught Obama telling Netanyahu, “It’s good to get away from Congress.” For his part, Netanyahu told Obama he knew of a few bars the two could go to in Tel Aviv, seemingly a reference to how Obama had said he wanted to wear a disguise and mingle with regular people during the trip, reports the Hill.

Also in Slate, Janine Zacharia argues that “the timing and the script” of Obama’s trip to Israel “makes no sense.”

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.

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