March 15 - Low expectations in the Mideast as U.S. President Barack Obama prepares to head to the region. Deborah Lutterbeck reports.
Israelis are preparing for the upcoming visit of U.S. President Barack Obama, who is due to visit Israel and the Palestinian territories March 20th. In the past year, the White House has voiced condemnation of Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank -- something U.S. presidents have described for decades as an obstacle to peace. Expectations are low (SOUNDBITE) (Hebrew) RESIDENT OF TEL AVIV, MOSHE FLEISHMAN, SAYING: "I think that he is not popular in the country, I think that the impression he has is that he is ignoring the Israeli government and our needs". In Ramallah demonstrators continue to call for the release of Palestinian prisoners. Some hope that Obama can help. (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) UM KHALED, MOTHER OF A PALESTINIAN PRISONER ON HUNGER STRIKE IN ISRAELI JAIL, SAYING: "We expect (U.S. President Barack) Obama to secure the release of the Palestinian prisoners who are on (hunger) strike as well as those on administrative dentition. To support the prisoner's plight in general and to oversee the implementation of international law in this matter. We also expect a clear American position when it comes to settlements." Washington has signaled that Obama will not launch any new peace plans on his trip, a decision that will prevent the thorny issue from dominating the agenda at a time when negotiating prospects are dim.