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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In Syria, there was a new surge of enthusiasm after Mitchell informed President Bashar al-Assad this weekend that the Obama administration would work to ease US sanctions. The US also recently announced that it would send an ambassador to Syria, ending a four-year hiatus in diplomatic relations.Skip to next paragraph
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"That Mitchell has come twice in such a short period of time shows that the Americans are serious [about restarting peace talks]. This is a sign that something is happening, that they are going into more details," says Thabet Salem, a Syrian political analyst.
"The Syrians are happy ... because the Americans are bringing the Israelis back to reason," he says. "They believe that the Americans are serious about doing something this time."
Saudis fed up with Palestinian infighting
Palestinians, meanwhile, have been trying to sway Arab countries from moving toward normalization.
"The Arabs must also remember that they have offered the maximum they can give through the Arab initiative, and until now, Israel did not move one inch forward to show that it is serious about peace," Mohammad al-Soudy wrote Wednesday in the West Bank-based newspaper al-Ayyam newspaper. "The Arabs must also remember that it is easy for Israel to resume settlement expansion, but it is very difficult for them [Israel] to revoke normalization once they start with it."
Saudi Arabia, which, together with Egypt, has the clout to push the Arab Peace Inititiave forward, is loath to budge without a move from Israel. But it's also fed up with Palestinian infighting, says Abdullah A. Al Shammri, a Saudi political observer.
"We are feeling cool to the Palestinian issue, since we are seeing Palestinian fighting and arguing every day. We consider it ... a shame that they are killing each other and arguing with each other."
In addition, the Saudi public is divided about which Palestinian faction to support. While the government is pro-Fatah, many influential religious and business figures favor Hamas. These divisions, and the public's impatience with Palestinian internal dissension, lessen the government's willingness to take dramatic steps, Mr. Shammri adds.
Still, some Saudis are not yet ready to dismiss Obama's efforts.
"I think it's too early in the game to say the efforts are not a success. We really need to give this time," says a Saudi who keeps in touch with the royal court. Recalling the landmark 1979 peace deal between Israel and Egypt reached at Camp David, he notes: "It was a long time before a deal was consummated."