“At Least He’s Better Than Bush!”

Customers at the Delice shop in Gaza watched the speech by President Barack Obama in quiet silence, nodding at certain points when he gave a direct message to Israel to lift the siege on Palestinians and work for a two state solution. Ehab Qishawi, diplomat in Gaza, said “he touched our emotions, especially when he quoted from the Qur’an. His words were good, but up to now we haven’t seen any policies on the ground. That’s what we are waiting for.” Other customers repeated the refrain about words being spoken, but no evidence of any changes in their lives or the lifting of the blockade on Gaza. There is a growing sense that too much time has been spent in meetings which conclude with statements, but life goes on as before and there is no change in the conditions people confront on a daily basis.

Asad Abu Shark, a professor at Al-Azhar University, summed up the general feeling in the Middle East. “Any American gesture in the right direction is welcome. If the Americans want an even-handed policy, we welcome that, but actions speak louder than words.”

The next step is up to Israel. Can it meet the challenge of taking a risk for peace?