Thursday, March 18, 2010

Arab world wants Obama to "deliver" Israel (for at no cost to them)

From Associated Press, 18 March 2010, by ELIZABETH A. KENNEDY (AP)*:

..."A lot of the Arab countries already in the last year saw that there wasn't much delivery from the U.S. on the Israeli side," [Paul Salem, director of the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut] told The Associated Press. "So why engage, why compromise, from their point of view?"

...During a speech in Cairo in June, Obama called for a complete settlement freeze and the creation of an independent Palestinian state. But Arabs were disillusioned when his administration appeared to back down and accepted a partial 10-month freeze called by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu late last year.

Badei Musa, 55, a Palestinian engineer who lives in Dubai, said he does not trust America's stated opposition to the settlements. "It's a joke," Musa said. "What's happening on the ground, that's what counts."

Jordanian political analyst Oreib Rentawi said Wednesday that Arabs do not believe there is true disagreement between the United States and its longtime ally, Israel. "Arabs consider what is taking place now as a summer cloud or a storm in a tea cup," Oreib Rentawi told the AP.

In Egypt, a column in the Al-Gomhuria newspaper expressed doubt that Israel would face any repercussions for its actions. "...(...Israel) knows well that they are outside the range of being punished by sanctions, economic or political boycott or even a threat to freeze aid," wrote Sameer Ragab.

Obama did get some vocal support from the Arab League. In Beirut, the group's secretary general, Amr Moussa, said Arabs should praise the U.S. president. "The man has in fact said the right things and tried hard," Moussa said.

...[however] U.S. allies Saudi Arabia and Gulf nations have rejected U.S. pressure to make diplomatic gestures to Israel to encourage it in the peace process, citing its hard line on settlements.

...The latest tumult over Israel is not the first time Obama's overtures in the Arab world have fallen flat. Last month, Syrian President Bashar Assad rejected U.S. calls to loosen his longtime alliance with Iran, even as Washington named the first U.S. ambassador to Damascus since 2005 and sent top diplomats to meet with Assad.

Maryam Abdul-Qadr, a 47-year-old Palestinian living in Dubai, said Arabs are still waiting for Obama to deliver on his promises. "Obama promised a lot of things, but within this one and a half years there is nothing happening," she said. "Only talking."

*AP Writers Jamal Halaby in Amman, Jordan, Hadeel al-Shalchi and Maamoun Youssef in Cairo, Albert Aji in Damascus, Syria and Sinan Salaheddin in Baghdad contributed to this report.
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