News / Middle East

Obama in Mideast - Substance and Symbolism

President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be meeting in Jerusalem on Wednesday. They are pictured here meeting in 2011.
President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be meeting in Jerusalem on Wednesday. They are pictured here meeting in 2011.
Mohamed Elshinnawi
As President Barack Obama arrives in Israel on the first leg of his Middle East trip next week, many Israelis are hoping his visit will reaffirm his commitment to Israel. And when he visits the Palestinian city of Ramallah, many Palestinians are expecting a clear U.S. commitment to creation of an independent Palestinian state.
 
The president himself has signaled he will not be unveiling any great diplomatic initiatives during the trip, and Middle East experts, as well as Arab and Jewish-American leaders, have scaled back their expectations accordingly.
 
James Zogby, president of the Arab-American Institute, says those lower expectations may be wise because the difficulties that frustrated Mr. Obama’s efforts during his first four-year presidential term still exist today. He says these include difficult political situations in both Israel and the Palestinian territories and a political environment in Washington that gives the president little room to maneuver.
 
The visit beginning on Wednesday will be Mr. Obama’s first to Israel as president, and Ken Jacobson, deputy national director of the Jewish Anti-Defamation League, expects it may turn out to be largely symbolic.
 
“I do not expect any major particular development…,” Jacobson says, adding that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is still pulling together a governing coalition after divisive parliamentary elections. “The most important thing is to reassure the Israeli public that they have a friend in the White House.”
 
Jacobson suggests the visit should help ease distrust that developed when President Obama did not visit Israel after his 2009 speech in Cairo appealing for better relations between the U.S. and the Muslim world.
 
The right message
 
Both Arab and Jewish-American leaders emphasized the need to use the trip to deliver the right message to both the Israelis and the Palestinians.
 
“He needs to say that peace is in the interest of both sides and that the U.S. will be there to help,” Jacobson said. “If the Israelis were reassured that the president will continue the special relationship and be a fair interlocutor in any peace process, that will encourage the Israelis, and hopefully the Palestinians, to consider moving down the road.”
 
James Zogby says more is needed. He says the president should to go beyond the politicians and appeal directly to the Israeli and Palestinian people.
 
“The president should reach out to both publics, as President Clinton did in 1998, by going over the heads of the leaders,” Zogby said. “Obama should speak directly to them saying, ‘This is the support the U.S. will give to you, but this is what we need from you.’”
 
Stops President Barack Obama is making on his trip to the middle east, March 20-22.Stops President Barack Obama is making on his trip to the middle east, March 20-22.
x
Stops President Barack Obama is making on his trip to the middle east, March 20-22.
Stops President Barack Obama is making on his trip to the middle east, March 20-22.
The White House has not given advance notice of the president’s expectations, and Secretary of State John Kerry has described the stops in Jerusalem, Ramallah and Amman, Jordan as a regional listening tour. But Marwan Muasher, a former Jordanian foreign minister and now a scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, says the time for listening is over.
 
“There is a window of only a few months until the hope for a two-state solution is lost for good,” Muasher says, referring to the idea of creating Palestine as an independent nation alongside Israel.
 
To get the diplomacy moving, Muasher says, President Obama needs to develop strong personal ties with the leaders in the region.
 
“It is no secret that Obama and Netanyahu have had a rocky relationship over the years,” he says, “so they need to mend their personal ties and give a positive impression during the visit.”
 
What comes next?
 
President Obama has said he will not present a U.S. peace plan while in the Middle East, raising the question, what will he do when he returns to the White House?
 
Zogby expects the president to formulate an “American peace initiative” within the year, taking into consideration both Israeli and Palestinian concerns. Zogby suggests that in order for the U.S. to lead a successful peacemaking effort in the Middle East, President Obama should encourage Palestinian reconciliation, using Qatar’s efforts to persuade the Palestinian political and militant group, Hamas, to be a partner in the peace efforts.
 
Muasher is less optimistic this will happen.
 
“The peace process is low on Obama’s list of priorities, and there are no indications that Washington will make any concerted effort to find a solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict,” he said.
 
Jacobson of the Anti-Defamation League says the Obama administration should refrain from applying too much pressure to achieve peace.
 
“That is not the way things happen in a positive way,” he said. “Peace proposals should come out of willingness and eagerness, and not by some perception of pressure from the U.S. Pressure from the U.S. ends up sending the wrong message, both sides have to make concessions, both sides have to compromise.”

You May Like

Sydney Hostage-taker Failed to Manipulate Social Media

Gunman forced captives to use personal Facebook, YouTube accounts to issue his demands; online community helped flag messages, urged others not to share them More

UN Seeks $8.4 Billion to Help War-Hit Syrians

Effort aimed at helping Syrians displaced within their own country and those who've fled to neighboring ones More

Who Are the Pakistani Taliban?

It's an umbrella group of militant organizations whose objective is enforcement of Sharia in Pakistan 'whether through peace or war' More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Siddha Tali
March 18, 2013 9:55 AM
Looking for today...


by: Ron Matar from: Australia
March 17, 2013 4:23 AM
I think Dr Hanz F.comment would have been nearer to the truth if he had said "Now Israel has got America firmly in its pocket its time to set sights on conditioning one of the European Countries and Germany with its guilt complex to exploit is the ideal target" and after all both countries do have something in common for the Israel of today is fast becoming the Germany of yesteryear.


by: Dr Hanz F. from: Germany
March 16, 2013 3:48 PM
the truth is that Israel has begun the transition away from the US. The Obama presidency has been proven to be a monumental disappointment both to the US and Israel alike. Germany and Israel has never been closer and we are growing ever closer by the day.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Putin: Russian Economy to Rebound in 2 Yearsi
X
December 18, 2014 5:13 PM
Russian President Vladimir Putin held his annual end-of-the-year news conference Thursday, tackling questions on the Russian economy, the crisis in Ukraine and Russian relations with the west. VOA's Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Putin: Russian Economy to Rebound in 2 Years

Russian President Vladimir Putin held his annual end-of-the-year news conference Thursday, tackling questions on the Russian economy, the crisis in Ukraine and Russian relations with the west. VOA's Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?

The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid