Mixed Reviews For Obama Among Arab Leaders

There was a mixed reaction among Arab leaders and the media to the recent Middle Eastern visit of Senator Barack Obama. He did meet with President Abbas and pledged to assume an active role in working for peace in the region, and he did please many Arab leaders by telling the Jerusalem Post that “aggressive settlement” construction most probably violated agreements made by Israel. Obama emphasized that Israel has to be more flexible and ready to compromise on certain issues like West Bank settlements. His view was in sharp contrast with that of Senator McCain who did not meet with Arab officials and played to the Jewish vote in American by ignoring Arab concerns.

Ambassador Hesham Youssef, of the Arab League, told the Cairo Daily News, “it gave us a opportunity to get to know him first hand, and leads us to hope that, unlike the current administration, Obama as president would dedicate more time to resolving the arab-Israel conflict and not just focus on Iraq.” However, Youssef Barghouti, of the Palestinian Legislative Council, was concerned Obama did not visit any Arab villages and spent more time with Israelis than with Arab officials.

There was genuine concern among many Arabs that Obama said Jerusalem would remain “the undivided capital of Israel” although he later modified that statement by saying Israel and Palestinians would have to resolve that issue. Most Arabs accepted Obama would be more favorable to Israel since he is engaged in a presidential race. Al Jazeera analyst, Marwan Bishara bluntly said: “His middle name might e Hussein, his father might be Muslim, but he is a staunch supporter of Israel that is his message.”