RAMALLAH, West Bank - Palestinian protesters raised their
hands and tried to wave away the helicopter that brought US President Barack
Obama to the Israeli-occupied West Bank on Thursday, accusing him of siding with
Around 150 demonstrators chanted anti-American slogans, saying
they wanted weapons not presidential visits.
"We want RPGs, not
collaboration with the CIA," they shouted, referring to rocket-propelled
Obama landed in the government compound of Palestinian Authority
President Mahmoud Abbas, saying beforehand that he was coming to listen and was
not bringing any new initiatives to re-launch US-sponsored peace talks that
broke down in 2010.
Much of the Palestinian de facto capital Ramallah was
shut down for Obama's trip, which is set to last less than five hours, with
hundreds of armed security men, police officers and plainclothes enforcers
patrolling the streets.
While the US president received a warm welcome
when he arrived in Israel on Wednesday, Palestinians were much colder, clearly
angered by his promise of unstinting support for Israel and repeated pledges to
guarantee its security needs.
"He surprised us with his speech last night
with just how much he flattered Israel, going on and on about its security,"
said Hussein Shujayia, 26. "What about us? There's no place for us in their
arrogant pro-Israel policies." Other Palestinians expressed
"The visit by this president is no different than all the
other presidents' visits. They come, they go and no change is made," said
Mohammed Mohammed, 23, watching the protesters from outside his shoe shop in
Ramallah's bustling downtown.
Obama is spending three days in Israel and
the occupied West Bank, with the vast majority of his appointments taking place
in the Jewish state, including plans to lay a wreath on the grave of Zionist
leader Theodor Herzl.
Palestinian requests for Obama to meet the family
of a Palestinian in an Israeli jail and to visit the tomb of former President
Yasser Arafat were turned down, local officials said.
"This is a negative
decision by the American president. Yasser Arafat is the leader of the
Palestinian people, and some day, the American president should visit the
grave," said Batta Araar, a resident of a village near
Palestinians complain that Obama has not put enough pressure on
Israel to halt settlement building in the West Bank and say any prospect of
creating a viable, independent state is fading fast.
In the Gaza Strip,
which is controlled by the Islamist group Hamas, a fierce rival of the
Western-backed Abbas, Palestinian opposition to Obama's visit was more
Guerrillas fired two rockets at southern Israel in the early
morning, causing only slight damage, in a signal that the world should not
ignore them in any discussions on regional diplomacy.
protesters in Gaza city smacked pictures of Obama with the soles of their shoes,
burned US flags and chanted that the president should "get out of Palestine".