US President Barack Obama's upcoming visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority is not inspiring high hopes for a resumption of peace talks among Palestinian leaders.
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat on Thursday led a group of Western diplomats in a tour of Jerusalem's Givat Hamatos neighborhood and Beit Safafa, stressing that Israeli construction in these areas as well as in Ramat Shlomo and Area E1 will terminate the two-state solution.
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Low expectations notwithstanding, Erekat said that the visit is important in that it reflects American involvement in the Palestinian issue.
He added that the Palestinian Authority continues to demand the release of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel who were tried prior to the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993.
Protest in Ramallah (Photo: EPA)
The Palestinian Authority's ministry of prisoners' affairs has asked the US to arrange a meeting between Obama and a family whose son is held in an Israeli jail, but has yet to receive a response.
Meanwhile, a group named "Palestinians for Dignity" who is opposed to normalizing relations with Israel is seeking authorization from the PA to protest in Ramallah during Obama's visit. The group wishes to protest what they call a US bias towards Israel.
The group is planning on waving black flags and sending thousands of black balloons into the air when the president enters Ramallah.
Adnan Damiri, a spokesman of the Palestinian security apparatus, said that such protests are protected under freedom of speech and that they are authorized as long as there is no violence.
On Wednesday, Ramallah's main streets became filled with posters calling on Obama to leave his smartphone at home when visiting Ramallah seeing as Israel prevents the PA from utilizing the third-generation (3-G) cellular technology.
On Thursday, unknown vandals marked an "X" over Obama's posters.
Palestinian elements opposed to the visit endorsed the protest claiming that the cellular issue is minor in comparison to the more pressing issues such as prisoners, settlements and US military support of Israel.
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