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Opinion: Obama should just send the money and postpone his visit

Feb. 25, 2013 4:29 P.M. (Updated: Feb. 25, 2013 4:29 P.M.)
By: Suhail Khalilieh
I would like President Barack Obama to just send us whatever is left of the aid money designated for the Palestinians and maybe, no pressure, help to release the Palestinian Authority's tax money held hostage by Israel in a piracy sort of way. I mean, I do not want to put any pressure on the president to do things beyond his capacity.

I am not against President Barack Obama's visit to Palestine, but we the Palestinians have had bad experiences from every visit by a US official: somehow it backfires on us and here are a couple of examples just for the sake of making a point.

Take the visit of the US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton last November. It was intended to bring the horrific Israeli aggression on Gaza to an end. I am exaggerating, all she wanted to do was calm things down, however, the Palestinians ended up being the party that was blamed, along with the Arab Spring and, atop of it all, Israel took advantage of the situation and slapped the Palestinians with more than rockets; issuing plans to build 1,500 housing units in the same month, and thousands more in December.

If we go further back a bit when US Vice President Joe Biden was visiting, Israel struck him with a declaration for 1,600 housing units the moment he stepped off the plane.

I can give dozens of examples, but instead I would like to cite occurrences that have happened within the duration of similar visits by US presidents to Israel. Carter visited in 1979 and five settlements were initiated: Efrat, Noomi, Elon Moreh, Shilo, and Kfar Adumim.

President Bill Clinton had multiple visits between 1994 and 1998, and approval for Har Homa was sanctioned in 1996 next to thousands of housing units and plans for "developing" new colonial areas like the E1 plan and Givat Hamatos, which came back to life after it was initially approved some 16 years ago. During President George Bush's visit in 2008 nothing happened, other than announcing new tenders at the time for hundreds of housing units, at least not until Israel launched its war on Gaza at the end of that same year.

The thing is, I would hate to see Obama become just another example that we can use the next time any US official comes to "visit".

When Obama was elected for his first presidential term, the Palestinians, and the whole world for that matter, had high expectations. As Palestinians await Obama's historic visit to the State of Palestine, I really hope that Israel does not smear it with tenders and plans for more housing units in settlements, including East Jerusalem.

If Obama has no initiative to put forward he should not come because if Palestinians are not hit with tenders for new housing units, then it is most likely that a package of military aid is on its way to Israel, or even worse a permission for an anticipated war in the months to follow, and we the Palestinians do not need any of that Mr. President.

What we as Palestinians need is to get our prisoners released, stop settlement construction, take control of our resources, land, borders and our Jerusalem. We simply want to end the occupation, plain and simple, to end the biggest robbery of the 20th and 21st century.

So if you are not coming here for something significant for the Palestinians then it will just be a long trip to find out how the falafel here tastes, hence, just 'show me the money' if you please!

Suhail Khalilieh is the Head of the Settlements Monitoring Department at the Applied Research Institute-Jerusalem
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