Style over substance. That’s the description sceptics have used to describe US President Barack Obama’s three-day tour of Israel and the West Bank.
For some such as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Obama’s charm offensive will need more time and effort to work. But in a showcase speech to Israeli students in Jerusalem, Obama’s call for compromise was warmly welcomed.
“Given the demographics west of the Jordan River, the only way for Israel to endure and thrive as a Jewish and democratic state is through the realisation of an independent and viable Palestine,” he said. “Israelis must recognise that continued settlement activity is counter-productive to the cause of peace, and that an independent Palestine must be viable, with real borders that have to be drawn.”
Earlier in Ramallah, Obama had voiced opposition to Israeli settlement building but urged Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to drop his demand for a freeze before agreeing to peace talks.
There are of course plenty who oppose the US president’s visit on all levels, while others are disappointed that he has not arrived with any obvious new peace initiatives in hand.
But Obama billed this as a ‘listening tour’ and, with that in mind, he is due in Jordan to focus on the civil war in neighbouring Syria.