United States’ first lady, Laura Bush visited the Haram Al-Sharif area in Jerusalem despite discomfort by Palestinian officials, for such a move.
Bush who is the U.S.’s new goodwill ambassador arrived in the country on Sunday, as part of a six-day Middle East trip meant to promote women’s issues and help defuse anti-American sentiment in the region.
In Israel, the First Lady met with several dignitaries and public figures, including Judy Nir Mozes Shalom, the wife of Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom and the wife of U.S. Ambassador to Israel, Sheila Kurtzer. She also visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum and the Wailing Wall.
On the other hand, Palestinian officials were upset as Bush’s visit to the Haram Al-Sharif symbolizes U.S. recognition of the Israel sovereignty over this site, which is still a matter of dispute between the Palestinians and the Israelis.
Palestinians were also angered by the fact the Bush’s visit to Jericho was scheduled as part of her tour in Israel, not Palestine.
Palestinian legislative Council member Hanan Ashwari called a special meeting to prepare a response to the outrage.
Bush’s visit was marred by the heckling of a few Palestinian worshipers. According to Reuters, one elderly man shouted, "You are not welcome here. Why are you hassling our Muslims? How dare you come in here?"
Such comments reflect an increasing blame against the American continuous unbalanced support for Israel’s policies in the Middle East.
As Mrs. Bush’s visit was meant to promote women role in the region, she was satisfied only by speaking at the economic conference in Amman. Bush did not take the hazard to visit any organization that empowers women in the society.
Standing before an international audience that included several ministers and men who hold political and economic power in the region, Bush encouraged Middle Eastern leaders to expand women’s participation in their societies, emphasizing their rights and the importance of democracy in the region.
"Women who have not yet won these rights are watching,” she said. "They are calling on the conscience of their countrymen, making it clear that if the right to vote is to have any meaning, it cannot be limited only to men.”
"Freedom, especially freedom for women, is more than the absence of oppression,” she said."It’s the right to speak and vote and worship freely. Human rights require the rights of women.”
Local observers criticized Bush’s focusing only on one side of the issue, by not recognizing the developing of the role of women in the Arab countries.
The status of women in the Middle East is enhancing except in few countries. Women not only vote, but some women became Ministers and many are Parliament members.