Arabs losing hope in Obama's ability to broker Mideast peace
In a push for progress, three heavy hitters from the administration – Mitchell, Gates, and Jones – visited the region this week.
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The Obama administration has publicly insisted that Israel freeze all expansion – even in East Jerusalem, which Israel claims as part of its undivided and eternal capital.Skip to next paragraph
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"Netanyahu has made it clear from the very start that he's not interested in peace," says Sami Moubayed, a political analyst in the Syrian capital, Damascus. "It shows you exactly what the Syrians have been saying for the last three or four months: There is no peace partner today. People thought Barack Obama would have enough clout to force Netanyahu to change his attitude, but there's only so much Obama can do."
Saudis also express doubt that Obama will succeed.
"We think Obama maybe came at the wrong time [because], unfortunately, with the current Israeli government, we think there is no hope to make any progress," says one senior civil servant who asked not to be named because he is not authorized to speak on the matter.
Mr. Rasheed, the Saudi businessman, points out that when Netanyahu visited the White House in May, "he basically told Obama to get lost. So now, what is the president of the United States going to do?"
He notes that many of Obama's close Mideast advisers are considered pro-Israeli – a point echoed by Zaim Abdullah, an unemployed recent graduate of Sanaa University in Yemen, who argues that Obama is so sympathetic to the Jewish perspective that he practically shares their religion. But Mr. Abdullah also criticizes Arabs.
"Arab countries, if unified, could destroy everyone, but they are all divided," he says. "That is the biggest problem."
Obama's Mideast policy needs teeth
Many Arabs are looking for a tougher approach from Obama, with some invoking a popular Arabic saying: "You can't chew meat unless you have some teeth."
"We're willing to make peace, but we want the [Israeli-occupied] Golan [Heights] back," says Ahmad, a taxi driver in Damascus. "Until the Americans match their actions with their words and put the Israelis under real pressure, nothing will happen."
But others are more optimistic. "His credibility is [high] and a lot of people have a lot of hopes invested in him," says Muhammed al-Katatni, a Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated member of Egypt's parliament.