Palestinians indifferent to Bush visit
Ramallah residents unmoved by important guest visiting their city. Sharing complaints about traffic and insult to Arafat's memory, most say they believe visit will do no good. 'My grandmother, who can't read or write, can also talk about the need for a vision and state of our own,' Palestinian waiter tells Ynet
RAMALLAH – The weather was not the only gloomy thing in Ramallah on Thursday morning. So was the mood of the residents, who responded indifferently and nervously to US President George W. Bush's visit to the West Bank city.
The Palestinian police blocked almost all access roads to the center of the city. The Muqta'a area was cleared of all vehicles, and snipers were stationed on rooftops of many buildings, whose tenants were evacuated.
"The Americans are hurting us with their policy, and now the traffic jams they are causing are harming our livelihood," said a salesperson at a clothing store not far from the government compound.
Addressing the fact that the US president had decided not to visit former Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat's gravesite, the man told Ynet, "Even before Bush arrived he spat in our faces and said that he would not visit Arafat's gravesite. That's fine, at least he won't desecrate the grave. Criminals are not entitled to visit Abu Amar's (Arafat's) grave".
Palestinian police offcers in Ramallah (Photo: AFP)
Ahmed, a policeman responsible for directing the traffic in the city, does not believe that the Palestinians will profit from the presidential visit.
"It's an important visit, as he is still the leader of the biggest world power, but not much will come out of it. Even in Ramallah, apart from the past two days, the Israelis come in every night, raid houses and arrest people, and I don’t think Bush will confront them and their lobby on the last days of his term," he said.
Even without the Ramallah traffic jams, the Palestinians are used to honking their car horns. The road blockade in the city has led to a significant rise in the honking noise.
"This is in Bush's honor, we are honking for him," a truck driver explained to a Palestinian policeman who asked him to let go of the horn.
"What will this visit give us?" asked a café owner.
"Bush said yesterday that Israel is a Jewish state. This means a state for the Jews and this means that there are no refugees," said Ahmed, who works as a waiter at the same café. "He said that the US would guarantee Israel's security and said that we have murderers who kill innocent people.
"These are the important things, the real things, and not what Bush plans to tell us here in Ramallah about the need for a vision and a state of our own. My grandmother, who cannot read or write, and can only milk cows, can say the same thing."
He explained that in spite of all the talks on the ease of restriction on the Palestinians, he encounters roadblocks and surprise army checkpoints every day as he makes his way to work from the village of Sinjal.
"So where is the ease of restrictions they talk about? Forget Jerusalem, forget the refugees, where is the ease of restrictions?"
A sumptuous meal at the Muqata'a
While most residents are indifferent, the chef of Ramallah's prestigious Darna restaurant is very busy. He is the man in charge of preparing the meal for 70 people during the presidential visit. The same restaurant also prepared 3,000 sandwiches for the security personnel safeguarding the visit.
The first course served to the Americans and Palestinians will include a spinach salad, chopped salad, tabbouleh and fattoush salad, alongside bread and cheese. The distinguished guests will then be served with more appetizers, including oval meat-filled patties and cheese-filled pastries.
Three main courses await the guests: Shrimps, rice with fish and mutton. The desserts will be comprised of chocolate cake, cheese cake and fruit salad. The entire meal, including the sandwiches to the security personnel, will cost NIS 90,000 (about $24,000).
These delicacies were prepared by the Darna restaurant team, but the dishes in which they will be served and prepared were mostly provided by the Americans, who also overlooked the food preparations.