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Palestinian activists frustrated by lack of US action as Obama ends visit

A Palestinian woman argues with policemen during a demonstration against President Barack Obama's visit to the Church of the Nativity, revered as the site of Jesus' birth, in the West Bank town of Bethlehem on Friday.Mussa Qawasma / Reuters

RAMALLAH, West Bank -- Hundreds of Palestinians used President Barack Obama's visits to the West Bank during his trip to Israel to protest what they say is unfair treatment not just by the Israelis but by the American government.

"Obama came to reaffirm his absolute support to Israeli repression and occupation of Palestinians," said Abir Kopty, an activist and spokeswoman for the group Palestinian Popular Resistance Committee.

Despite Obama's appeals for ordinary Israelis to put pressure on their leaders to make a peace deal with the Palestinians, and urging them to put themselves in Palestinians' shoes, Kopty said Obama was part of the problem, not the solution.

"He is the most pro-Israel president in U.S. history, and I see him complicit in our repression," Kopty said.

On his trip, Obama would have caught a glimpse of what some Palestinians call a wall to peace: a nearly 30-foot-high concrete barrier constructed through much of the 440-mile border between the West Bank and Israel. He would have also been able to see the Israeli settlements peppered throughout the land the Palestinians hope will one day be a part of a sovereign Palestine.

Kopty and other activists erected more than a dozen tents in Bab al Shams, a village in the so-called E1 area of the occupied West Bank where Israelis plan to build thousands of new homes for settlers.  Palestinians feel the area is crucial to a contiguous Palestinian state.

"They are illegal under international law," Kopty said. "They are part of an apartheid system implemented in the occupied territories since 1967, and with them, Israel has killed the so-called two-state solution."

Obama and past U.S. presidents have perpetuated the problems in the region, Kopty said.

"The negotiations for two-decades have been a great cover-up for continuous Israeli violation, settlement expansion, displacement and home demolitions," she said. "His trip was full of words about promised peace, but he fails to tell us what actions he will take to stop, for example, Israeli settlements."

But for their part, Palestinian government leaders in the West Bank welcomed Obama's call for a Palestinian state to live side-by-side in peace with Israel.

"It is a path to a better future for all the peoples of the region," Palestinian Liberation Organization executive committee member Saeb Erekat was quoted as saying in Palestinian papers.

But Mustafa Barghouti, the head of the Palestinian National Initiative and member of the Palestinian parliament, said Obama needed to deliver more than appeasing words – that he needs to make decisions and be more decisive when it comes to his Israeli partners.

"This is our very last opportunity for a two-state solution," he says. "If he doesn't stop the settlement activity, the only solution will be a one-state solution and it will mean a long way of suffering through an apartheid system."


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