Rare Mideast Agreement On Obama Prize
MICHELE NORRIS, Host:
And as NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro reports from Jerusalem, there was mixed response to Mr. Obama's peace prize.
LOURDES GARCIA: While official reaction to the Nobel announcement from both Palestinian and Israeli leaders was positive, on the streets here, both sides took a different view and were in rare agreement. Outside Jerusalem's main market, 43-year-old Israeli, Shlumi Afta(ph), said that Mr. Obama did not deserve the distinction.
SHLUMI AFTA: (Through translator) He's brand new at his job and hasn't accomplished anything yet. What peace are they even talking about? We are still at war here. There isn't any peace. Something definitely stinks.
GARCIA: At an Israeli checkpoint near the old city, Palestinian Samar Abu Tayeb(ph) expressed a similar frustration.
SAMAR ABU TAYEB: (Through translator) He doesn't deserve this award. He's been unable to pressure Israel on anything. What kind of peace is he preaching?
GARCIA: President Obama promised to make resolving the Israeli- Palestinian issue a centerpiece of his foreign policy agenda. But in a recent poll, only four percent of Jewish Israelis described him as a supporter of their country. And Palestinians, too, are growing angry with the lack of progress in the peace talks.
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GARCIA: This afternoon, on the outskirts of the West Bank city of Ramallah, youth's hurled stones and burned tires while Israeli security forces responded with tear gas. After several months of relative calm here, there have been repeated clashes like this one over access to a compound in Jerusalem's old city, which is holy to both Muslims and Jews. U.S. envoy George Mitchell met the Israeli and Palestinian leaders today, but he seemed no closer to reviving formal peace talks.
AVIGDOR LIEBERMAN: (Foreign language spoken)
GARCIA: The so-called Goldstone Report accused Israel and Hamas of war crimes. Abbas, bound to U.S. pressure, initially withdrew a demand to have consideration of the report expedited. That caused outrage among Palestinians and across the Arab world. Abbas has now changed his position, backing a move to have the report considered as soon as possible by the UN Security Council. But a prominent member of Abbas' party, Mohida Awad(ph), says the damage is already done.
MOHIDA AWAD: (Through translator) It's very serious and will have far- reaching effects. People's confidence in Abbas has eroded. The consequences will be dramatic for the whole Palestinian scene.
GARCIA: Those are already being felt. Awad says the central committee of the ruling Fatah movement met yesterday and agreed that Abbas would not be allowed to make any more concessions to restore peace talks. The issue is also affecting efforts to ease tensions between Fatah and the Hamas militants who control the Gaza strip. There were reports that the two sides were ready to sign a reconciliation agreement later this month in Egypt. But speaking to NPR, Hamas spokesman Ismail Radwan says that is now on hold.
ISMAIL RADWAN: (Through translator) Abbas' decision has had a negative effect on the Palestinian political situation. We are not ready to sit with those who conspired with those who killed and injured our people.
GARCIA: Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, NPR News, Jerusalem.
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