Palestinian Authority Mulls Response to Obama Visit

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- With President Obama's visit to Israel less than a week away, the Palestinian Authority is scrambling to formulate its response to his visit.

On the one hand, P.A. officials want to welcome him; on the other hand, it's on their terms.

"Jerusalem is occupied Palestinian territory and visiting it should be coordinated with the Palestinian side, with Palestinian attendance and participation," P.A. Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki said on Palestinian National Radio, Asharq al-Awsat reported on Thursday.

According to the report, the White House has not responded to the P.A.'s demands nor clarified whether the president will come to Ramallah or Bethlehem where he would visit the Church of the Nativity.

"We welcome the presence of the U.S. president on the territory of the Palestinian state whether this is in Bethlehem or Ramallah," al-Maliki reportedly said.

A government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Palestinian Authority's official Ma'an News Agency that Obama "may scrap" his visit to Ramallah and meet Abbas in Bethlehem.

Some have already voiced their opposition to the president's visit.

A group named "Palestinians for Dignity" has called for street demonstrations, citing the U.S. position last fall on the P.A.'s unilateral statehood bid at the U.N. and U.S. pressure to resume negotiations with Israel.

"We call on the masses of the Palestinian people to change this path and demonstrate against receiving he who considers Israel 'the closest ally in the region' and to refuse the return to futile negotiations," the group said in a statement.

Hamas spokesman Mushir al-Masri warned against a visit to the al-Aksa Mosque, saying it would be a "declaration of war" and could spark a third intifada (armed uprising).

More than a dozen years ago, the P.A. blamed the second intifada, which they called "the al-Aksa intifada," on a visit to the Temple Mount by former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. It was later revealed the uprising was planned well before the visit.

Meanwhile, Palestinian Affairs analyst Khaled Abu Toameh suggested 10 points the U.S. should consider before next week's visit.

Most Palestinian organizations "would automatically reject any peace agreement with Israel for a variety of reasons," he said.

"Some of these groups want to see Israel wiped off the face of the earth, while others believe that Israel would never accept all their demands, such as full withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines and the release of all Palestinian prisoners," he wrote.

"Even if a Palestinian state were established, Hamas and other groups would work to take control of it, and, with the help of Iran and al Qaeda, turn it into a launching pad for attacking Israel and other neighbors," Toameh said.

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Tzippe Barrow

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From her perch high atop the mountains surrounding Jerusalem, Tzippe Barrow helps provide a bird’s eye view of events unfolding in her country.

She and her husband made aliyah (immigrated to Israel) several years ago. Barrow hopes that providing a biblical perspective of today’s events in Israel will help people in the nations to better understand the centrality of this state and the Jewish people to God’s unfolding plan of redemption for all mankind.