Obama welcomes his first Arab leader to White House
After meeting with Jordan's King Abdullah II, he emphasized his commitment to Palestinian statehood – a top concern among Arabs.
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"The situation is not that promising," says Professor Sela. "It does not lead me to think just because the United States is so dedicated and we now have a president who is ready to go ahead and stick his neck into this horrible conflict that something is going to change necessarily."Skip to next paragraph
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Obama, for his part, emphasized that while the US could create the "conditions and atmosphere" for peace, it is Israelis and Palestinians who need to seize the opportunity.
"Ultimately, they've got to make the decision that it's not in the interest of the Palestinian people or the Israelis to perpetuate the kind of conflict we've seen for decades," he said.
Abdullah met with Arab allies beforehand
While neither Obama nor King Abdullah elaborated on their private conversation, the king was expected to discuss the Arab Peace Initiative. Signed in 2002, it stipulates that Arab nations will begin normal relations with Israel if Israel returns the territory it captured in 1967. The initiative failed to gain traction during the Bush administration.
Before traveling to the US, King Abdullah had met with foreign ministers from the Palestinian Authority, Lebanon, Egypt, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia to ensure that he would provide the US leader with a united Arab voice.
In many respects Jordan represented "a good part of the Arab world in terms of bringing over their agenda and listening," says Mouin Rabbani, a contributing editor to the Middle East Report. Jordanians, for their part, would be "keen to hear what exactly Obama's Middle East policies are, particularly towards [the Palestinian territories], Iraq, and, maybe to be a lesser degree, Syria and Lebanon. These are all issues that directly affect them and they will have to calibrate their own policies accordingly."
Signs of a US shift on Israeli-Palestinian conflict
Obama only recently made many key appointments for his Middle East policy delegates, so it remains to be seen just how far the US will change direction.
So far, though, the Obama administration has taken a significant number of steps away from the policies of his predecessor – in particular by extending an olive branch to Iran and Syria. While these changes are not indicative of any shifts to come in Obama's stance toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it may be a sign of change to come.
"The Obama administration is playing its cards very close to its chest," says Issandr el-Amrani, a Middle East analyst for the International Crisis Group in Cairo, noting that Obama has only been in office for about three months. "It takes a while to set up all the new positions, all the new people that are coming in, to do a review of existing policies, and decide whether any changes need to be made."