Not surprisingly, the Saudi media are starting to pay attention to Pres. Obama’s trip to Saudi Arabia, scheduled for Wednesday.
Asharq Alawsat runs a piece on the objectives of Obama’s visit to the region in terms of Middle East Peace:
London, Asharq Al-Awsat- President Barack Obama wants US partners in the Middle East to take positive steps ‘to pave the way and create conditions’ for launching the peace process between the Palestinians and the Israelis, Informed US sources have revealed to Asharq Al-Awsat.
The sources that spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity explained that “the Obama administration’s approach to peace does not set out from the premise of convening a peace conference and then waiting for the results of the negotiations; rather it wants to create the required conditions first for the success of the peace process, and this requires the states in the region to take certain steps.”
The sources added: “We want regional efforts to go hand in hand with US efforts in order to build trust between the Israelis and the Palestinians. The US does not want to move towards convening a peace conference on the Middle East before talking to its allies in the region about what each party can do to create a better atmosphere for the peace process.”
It also has an opinion piece from Hussein Shobokshi, in which he seems to be doing an awful lot of personal projection.
Obama…Welcome to the Middle East
In a few days, US President Obama will be the guest of the Middle East. He comes to the region clearly welcomed on the official and popular levels. He will come representing a “different” America just as he comes to a definitely “different” Arab world. America is different on the official level. He personally has a state of mind, ideas, and an approach different from that of his predecessor. Bush is now being classified as the worst President in American history due to his arrogance and recklessness in dealing with events and in his naïve simplification of political events. He turned the whole world against him for one reason or another because it does not see things the way he did.
The Obama Administration is not like the Bush Administration. It is a more realistic, more humane, and more deeply and accurately knowledgeable about what is happening in the world. Barack Obama himself succeeded in reading his country well and began to make his selections for the senior Administration posts and launch his political legislations. He realized that the US voter has veered toward the left and become more liberal as he steered away from the convulsive right that was the major characteristic and feature of the Bush era and of his neo-conservative cronies. This gave Obama the self-confidence required to give his decisions and the important weight and impetus. And he is coming to a different Arab world. He is coming to an Arab world where Israel, its occupation of Arab lands, and its constant violation of international laws, agreements, and charters are the biggest problem and the most important calamity. Moreover, the total US inclination on the side of Israel in this dilemma has directly affected the Arab impression (generally positive) of the United States. Obama has forcefully called for the immediate cessation of the satanic settlement construction in the occupied lands that Israel is perpetrating. He called for a two-state solution – a Palestinian state and an Israeli state – but this was rudely and arrogantly rejected by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his Foreign Minister Lieberman. There is nothing new to tell Obama about the Palestinian-Arab-Israeli affairs. The ball is in Israel’s court and no one can put pressure on them except the American master. The same issues are known to every US President that visited the region before. Proposals were made and followed one another from the step-by-step policies to Rogers Plan to Camp David to the Wye Agreement to the Road Map. They all failed because they were not fair and not binding on Israel.
Arab News, for its part, runs an editorial which reprises the ‘perfidy’ of Israel toward the US, starting with the USS Liberty incident in 1967, through the Pollard affair, to the recent decision to not prosecute an 85-year-old American who had spied on the US for Israel. Other than feeding anti-Israeli sentiments, I’m not sure what the point of this piece is…
The Israelis have never been short of chutzpah — after all, it is their word, meaning cheek of an often-outrageous kind. Thus after the Americans had sentenced a US Navy employee, Jonathan Pollard to life imprisonment for spying for Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, then in his first term as premier visited President Clinton and asked for the spy’s release.
Pollard had spent years passing the Israelis thousands of pages of highly sensitive material. He had seriously compromised US security. Yet far from expressing any contrition for this betrayal of a trusted ally, the Israelis repeatedly demanded at the highest levels their spy be released. They even bestowed Israeli citizenship on him. Ten years ago an Israeli government minister actually visited Pollard in his jail.
Lebanon’s Daily Star has a more useful editorial looking at why Obama’s going to Saudi Arabia now.
What United States President Barack Obama might say to the Muslim world from the forum of Cairo next month is certainly grabbing headlines and attention. Obama’s Cairo address, ostensibly aimed at 1.8 billion people throughout the world and of interest to many others, will be raked over the coals before and after the event.
However, another part of the president’s itinerary is just as important. The White House has added the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to Obama’s itinerary, one day before the more high-profile address on June 4. No public appearances are scheduled to take place in Riyadh, just a series of crucial meetings between Obama and America’s long-time ally in the region.
To put this visit by Obama in context, we should note that Saudi Arabia’s role in the region has been wanting. It hasn’t demonstrated the required creativity to lead the region in the direction of its interests, such as stability and reform. The Saudi style is, unfortunately, played too close to the vest. Saudi officials are more comfortable with hiding behind a wall of silence, and should abandon this style in favor of creative, political engagement.