Obama Unites Israelis and Arabs in Disappointment

Losing Faith in the Messiah

By Gregor Peter Schmitz, Christoph Schult and Bernhard Zand
Der Spiegel
3/15/2010

Hopes were high in the Middle East when US President Barack Obama took office last year. But instead of progress toward peace, he has shown indecision and hesitancy. With many in the region united against Iran, he is in danger of letting a golden opportunity slip through his fingers.

US President Barack Obama glided off the stage to thunderous applause. He had just given a speech that commentators around the world, particularly those in the Muslim world, would characterize within minutes as “historic.” “The situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable,” he said, and promised to “personally pursue” the establishment of a Palestinian state. Then the president left the great hall of Cairo University and entered a smaller room, where seven journalists had gathered: five Muslims, a Christian and a Jew. Speaking to the men and women from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Palestine, Israel and Malaysia, Obama demonstratively praised Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: “A very intelligent man, who’s easy to talk to. He has a real sense of history. I believe that Netanyahu has recognized the strategic necessity of achieving peace in the Middle East.”

As the Israeli reporter, Nachum Barnea, recalls, Obama was “like a teacher, full of knowledge and persuasiveness.”

Eight months later, the president was forced to admit that he had not even come close to reaching the goal he had set for himself. “We overestimated our ability to persuade [both sides] to [negotiate],” he told Time reporter Joe Klein in the White House Oval Office in January. “If we had anticipated some of these political problems on both sides earlier, we might not have raised expectations as high.” It was an astonishing admission.

Never before had a US president enjoyed such trust in the Middle East — and gambled it away in such a short time…

The article continues at Der Spiegel.

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