>> NOTE: I’ll be on the Fox News Channel around 9:10am eastern on Thursday to discuss the President’s trip.
Thursday is Day Two of President Obama’s trip to the epicenter. Here’s coverage and analysis of Day One.
The President began Day Two by visiting the Israel Museum and seeing the Dead Sea Scrolls at the “Shrine of the Book” with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. Then he headed to Ramallah on the West Bank to meet with Palestinian leaders, including Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. The goal was to discuss the possible re-starting of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks towards the President’s goal of creating a sovereign Palestinian state. Yet in the midst of all this, Palestinian terrorists in Gaza fired Kassam rockets at Jewish civilians living in southern Israeli towns, including Sderot.
It is right for the American President to visit with, listen to, and honor the Palestinian people and their leaders. They have dreams and goals and needs and desires and they have been ignored or forgotten by the world for far too long. But I am grieved and sickened by news that Palestinian terrorists in Gaza have again fired rockets at innocent civilians in southern Israel. The situation demonstrates precisely why it is not possible to create a comprehensive peace deal in the current environment.
- Abbas is serving his eighth year of a four year term — he refuses to call elections again for fear Hamas could seize control of the West Bank, as it has seized control of Gaza.
- Abbas refuses to us the Palestinian Authority forces to crush terrorism in Gaza — he and his government have no control and little influence in Gaza.
- The Palestinian leadership cannot make peace between the West Bank and Gaza — how then is Israel supposed to make peace with them?
- I believe in giving the Palestinian people full autonomy so they can run their daily lives — but not sovereignty, which would allow the Palestinians to build an air force, army and Navy and alliances with Iran, Syria, etc.
I’ll post more analysis later today. But for now, let me share some of the highlights of today’s coverage from the region.
“U.S. President Barack Obama is meeting Palestinian officials on the second day of his Mideast tour to emphasize the importance of reaching an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, a message underscored Thursday when Palestinian militants in Gaza launched rockets into southern Israel,” reported the Associated Press. “After a visit to Israel’s national museum — where he inspected the Dead Sea Scrolls, which highlight the Jewish people’s ancient connection to the land that is now Israel — Obama headed to the West Bank to tell the Palestinians that the creation of a Palestinian state remains a priority for his administration.”
“Four rockets were fired at Israel out of Gaza Thursday morning, as red alert sirens rang out in south, breaking a tense several month calm in the area,” reports the Times of Israel. “One of the Kassam rockets landed in a residential courtyard in Sderot, causing no injuries but some damage to the home of the Hazizu family. Another landed in an open area in the Sha’ar Hanegev area with no reported injures or damage, and two more landed within the Strip, near the fence with Israel, according to initial reports. “'[President Barack] Obama should come and see how we live here,’ said Sara Hazizu on Army Radio. ‘We live in nice homes, but that means nothing. Really, we live in our security rooms. He should see how our 8-year-old daughter has to dash for the safety of the security room [when the rocket alarms go off].'”
“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.”
Timeline of the President’s trip to Ramallah (from Haaretz):
- 1:32 P.M. local time — Obama-Abbas joint press conference begins.
- 1:20 P.M. — Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh tells Ma’an: “We believe American policies perpetuate the Israeli occupation and settlements in Palestine under a slogan of peace… The PA must realize that they have to abide by national principles and reconciliation.” (Haaretz)
- 1:10 P.M. — Obama-Abbas meeting continuing for longer than expected. (Haaretz)
- 1:00 P.M. — Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad joins Abbas’ meeting with Obama, along with Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki, Minister for Prisoner Affairs Issa Qaraqe, Fatah Central Committee member Mohammad Shtayyeh and Abbas’ economic adviser Mohammad Mustafa. (Haaretz)
- 12:23 P.M. Palestinians present Obama with a picture of him and Abraham Lincoln.
- 12:15 P.M. Ma’an news agency reports scuffles between some 150 Palestinian demonstrators and security forces in Ramallah, as protesters hold up shoes, shouting anti-Obama slogans and calling for the U.S. president to leave Palestine.
- 11:56 A.M. At the Jerusalem Convention Center, press and invited students are already lining up outside, a full five hours before Obama is set to take the stage. In the parking lot, scores of military police and soldiers are lolling around, snacking, and chatting, taking it easy before the action begins and the president arrives to address the people of Israel. (Debra Kamin)
- 11:30 A.M. The official Palestinian Wafa news agency quoted Abbas condemning the rocket fire: “We condemn violence against civilians regardless of its source, including rocket firing,” he said. (Retuers)
- 11:15 A.M. Obama, Abbas begin their meeting in Ramallah. Following the meeting, the two leaders will attend a joint press conference. (Jack Khouri)
- 11:00 A.M. U.S. officials say Obama will speak with Abbas about the rockets fired from Gaza on Thursday morning. (Barak Ravid)
- 10:59 A.M. Abbas greets Obama after he emerges from Marine One. Obama reviews honor guard of American-trained soldiers. (Haaretz)