Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Obama and the Arabs | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Either Barack Obama is the most intelligent president that has ever entered the White House, or he is trying his luck in his first presidential months by walking into the dangerous minefield, the Middle East. So far, it seems that everything he has done has been successful in a region in which hatred of everything American has become deep rooted since the era of Lyndon Johnson until today.

It looks like a gamble; however, I bet that Obama is capable not only of changing the typical image of the United States, but more importantly of changing the Middle East region for the better. This mission is nearly impossible or it looks like a fairytale; however, we can see that he has taken his first steps toward it in a good way, and has achieved good results. This is confirmed by all the opinion polls, which show that the majority of the Arabs are looking positively and optimistically at the master of the White House.

Usually, pleasing the Arabs is an unachievable aim, because they blame Washington nearly for everything, whether it interferes or stays away. Washington is blamed for the dictatorships if it deals with them, and if it topples them, it will be accused of wanting to impose its political culture. It is blamed for all the contradictions: poverty, ignorance, occupation, terrorism, oppression, the support for the extremists, the hunt down of the Islamists, and even for the divorce of wives. Practically, Washington is the devil who is blamed for everything evil.

The truth is that Obama is not required to please 300 million Arabs, to settle all the issues as there are 1,000 issues in the region, or to fight all the wars. Obama can reduce his project to one issue, the Arab-Israeli conflict. If he succeeds in disentangling and settling the conflict, he will have succeeded in extinguishing the biggest and oldest war in the world, and in putting the region on the right track, despite the fact that this does not mean settling all the other issues.

If he succeeds in this, he will achieve for the first time security and peace for Israel, which is besieged in an ocean of Arabs, and will put an end to the injustice, which has been inflicted for more than 50 years on the Palestinians. Moreover, he will put an end to all the pretexts of hatred of the United States in the region, pretexts that have been used against the United States since the days of the former Soviet Union until the current era of Al-Qaeda. These three aims are sufficient to tempt him to get into this adventure.

Obama should not get fed up with the huge amount he will hear in the region of urging him to settle the Arab-Israeli conflict, because this is praise for him. It is a new phenomenon that the Arabs, however different their political stances might be, consider that he is the trusted man who is capable of resolving the issue. This is a huge turning in the Arab thinking, which has been rejecting in principle the US mediator, and in the past had insisted on European and Russian participation as it believed that any US president would be biased in favor of Israel from the start. This applied even to President Jimmy Carter, who was rejected from the first day of his mediation in Camp David, despite all the efforts he exerted to achieve in reality a just peace for Egypt and Israel. This turning is due to Obama, who convinced the inhabitants of the region that he is an impartial leader toward issues such as the Palestinian cause, a fair man in dealing with the Guantanamo prisoners, and a man who is not hostile to the region, as he addressed the Muslims across the world as soon as he assumed the presidency.