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Forget the myth-making. Obama is just what the Middle East needs

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Violet_Crumble Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-23-08 07:32 AM
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Forget the myth-making. Obama is just what the Middle East needs
It's lucky Barack Obama has people to carry his bags these days, because when he arrived in Israel last night he brought with him a whole lot of baggage. Most of it was packed with negative associations that owe more to urban myth than reality, but that combined to make the Democratic candidate an object of suspicion from the earliest days of his campaign, first among American Jews and then in Israel. The mix of facts, lies and hybrids of the two is now wearily familiar: Barack Hussein Obama is a Muslim; he was educated in a madrasa; he has terrorist friends; his former pastor is an Israel-hater and admirer of the anti-Jewish Louis Farrakhan; he was against the war on Iraq, wants to talk to Iran - and will therefore fall to his knees to appease Israel's enemies.

The Obama camp has worked hard to dump all this cargo, but it has been stubborn to shift. Opinion polls show that US Jewry's traditional three-to-one backing for the Democrats remains intact, with most supporting Obama. But while the Illinois senator can look forward to a euphoric response in Berlin tomorrow night, and in London and Paris thereafter, Israel is one of the few places where he faces a hostile, or at least uncertain, public. Recent polls have Israelis backing John McCain over Obama, just as they preferred Hillary Clinton a few months back.


Above all, Obama promises to do, once more, the work that a US administration alone can do - engaging hands-on, directly and every day, in shepherding the two sides through negotiations and towards peace. Bill Clinton toiled in this way until his last hours in office; Bush, by contrast, steered well clear of the whole messy business until last autumn, when he panicked that he might have no other legacy to point to. Obama has faulted both Clinton and Bush for getting stuck in too late. Yesterday, in Amman, he vowed to roll up his sleeves, "from the minute I'm sworn into office".

But Obama is sending a signal more powerful than mere words. Accompanying him on this trip is Dennis Ross, the veteran mediator who served both Clinton and Bush's father. Ross has his critics, but no one doubts his knowledge or experience. "I see him as the diplomatic equivalent of Michael Jordan working the Middle East," says David Makovsky, a colleague of Ross's at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, which is neutral in all elections. "He has the skill and the finesse."

With Ross at his side, Obama is signalling that we should forget the myth-making: an Obama presidency will be about active, engaged diplomacy, between Israelis and Palestinians, between Israel and Syria, and beyond. And if anyone doubts that this is what the world desperately needs after the past seven and a half years, then they haven't been paying attention.
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Scurrilous Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-23-08 02:07 PM
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1. Great article.
Thanks Violet. :thumbsup:
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