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Analysis: Obama's Signals on Middle East Scrutinized by All Sides

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DogPoundPup Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-24-09 09:55 AM
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Analysis: Obama's Signals on Middle East Scrutinized by All Sides

Abraham H. Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, is not pleased with the Mitchell appointment because he believed Mitchell's 2001 report appeared to equate settlement expansion to Palestinian violence. But he said Obama's remarks were appropriate. "I don't read anything in these comments" that is different than what he publicly said on the campaign trail, he said.

Still, Daniel Levy, a former Israeli peace negotiator, was struck by language that he felt conveyed "genuine empathy for the Palestinian predicament and for Palestinian dignity," because Obama addressed "the suffering of Palestinian civilians as an issue in its own right rather than as a derivative of Hamas behavior." Levy cited, as a contrast, a long list of statements by then-President George W. Bush and his secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, that repeatedly blamed Hamas for Palestinian suffering.

Levy said that with an Israeli election set in February, Obama is unlikely to tip his hand on the evolving U.S. policy toward the region. After the election, he said, "the first thing they might do is get tough on settlements."

New polls show the right-wing Likud party in position to win the most seats in the Israeli parliament, but Levy said paradoxically that might make it easier for Obama to put pressure on the Israeli government. A left-center government claiming to be eager to make peace usually wins a pass from U.S. presidents on settlements, while right-wing governments resistant to negotiations do not, he said.

In an interview from Jerusalem, Diana Bhutto, a former Palestinian Authority adviser, was pleased by the Mitchell appointment but said she found Obama's comments on the Palestinians wanting.

Obama said that "a future without hope for the Palestinians" is "intolerable." Bhutto said she was disappointed that he spoke of "hope" rather than "freedom," which she said would have made it clear the Palestinians are under occupation. Other oppressed peoples are always promised freedom by American officials, she said, "but Palestinians only get 'hope.' "

For the moment, experts say, Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will need to focus on rebuilding Gaza and reopening it to trade and commerce, while at the same time trying to bolster Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority leader who was weakened by the fighting in Gaza. Aaron David Miller, a former U.S. peace negotiator and author of "The Much Too Promised Land," said options are limited for dramatic changes in policy now, such as seeking to begin contacts with Hamas.

In the wake of the violence in Gaza, however, patience is running out in the Arab world. Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal, former ambassador to the United States, published a sharply worded article in the Financial Times yesterday, warning that U.S.-Saudi relations were at risk over what he called the "butchery in Gaza" and the "sickening legacy" of the Bush administration.

Obama called Saudi King Abdullah yesterday and "underscored the importance of a strong U.S.-Saudi relationship," the White House said.

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oberliner Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-24-09 04:28 PM
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1. I guess that's a good sign!
Implies that we are in for a change in the status quo if nothing else.
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