Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Obama and Cautious Optimism | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Since his election, Israel has been keeping a watchful eye on the position and actions of President Barack Obama. Israeli politicians and analysts have often expressed serious concerns about Obama’s statements on the peace process based upon the two-state solution, and his demands that Israel abide by this option. Obama’s strategy in the Middle East is based upon criticizing his predecessor George Bush, and putting forward a different approach with regards to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Obama’s performance over the past few weeks has further intensified the public feeling in Israel that the current US president is not a strategic ally of Israel to the extent that his processor George Bush was, despite the assurances offered by successive US administrations towards Israel.

The recent meeting in Washington between President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was carefully observed by the Israeli media, who were quick to enlarge upon it, not just with regards the difference in attitude between the two men on their outlook to peace, but also analysing their performance and statements, how they sat together, and how they reacted to what as already known prior to the meeting itself, namely that they would not succeed in reaching a common perspective on the peace process.

Some Israeli commentators wrote that Obama demonstrated reserved friendship that obscured the great differences between the two men.

The political and media criticism in Israel, whether those that condemned Netanyahu, or those that questioned the Obama administration’s deviation from the US’s traditional commitment to protecting the security of Israel reflected the prevailing caution in the Jewish state over the shift in the US’s perspective on the region, although this is a shift that remains unclear and inconclusive.

What serves to increase the Israeli concerns is the content of the speech that Obama will deliver on 4 June in Egypt to the Islamic world. Obama will convey his new approach to Arab and Muslim issues in this speech.

This caution towards Obama is not only seen in Israel, for on several occasions Arab sources have raised doubts over Obama’s endeavour to open dialogue with Iran, believing that this could be part of a deal at the expense of their own countries and regimes.

There can be no doubt that in the recent elections Israel voted in a manner different than the Americans. This is an indication of their divergence, yet it would be wise not to exaggerate the reliability of this information. Still it is an indication of the beginning of a separation [between Israel and America]. It is also significant that Egypt would be Obama’s second destination after Turkey, in his address to the Muslims and the Arabs.

Without a doubt this is an opportunity, and missing it would be an enormous responsibility, as we have often wasted similar opportunities.

Most of the Arab media is preparing to cover Obama’s visit to Egypt amidst much speculation on the details of the location from which Obama will deliver his speech, and the extent of his ability to convince the Arab world that the US is not an enemy of Muslims.

Have we succeeded in receiving the American shift [in viewpoint]?

The Turks did so when they received Obama. What did we do other than utter tedious clichés and slogans?