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Obama's Middle East Trip a Balancing Act


U.S. and Saudi flags flutter on a main road in the Saudi capital Riyadh, in advance of the visit by President Obama. (Hassan Ammar/Associated Press)

By Michael D. Shear
President Obama's visit to the Middle East, which begins today, will test the administration's relationship with Israel's new leadership and the president's promise to reach out to the Arab world as the region struggles to find peace.

The president departs for his third major overseas trip this evening, heading to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia for a private meeting with King Abdullah. That visit, a last-minute add-on, will be a prelude to what the White House is billing as a major speech in Cairo on Thursday.

The Cairo speech -- a belated attempt to make good on a campaign promise to speak from a Muslim capital during the first 100 days of his presidency -- is much anticipated in the Arab world, where many expect the president to unveil a new Arab-Israeli peace plan.

White House officials say that will not happen in the speech, which they characterize as a continuation of early efforts to strike a different tone in conversations with the Muslim world. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs has specifically rejected the notion of
major proposals in the speech.

That gulf in expectations could set the stage for a difficult trip that is already proving to be a delicate balancing act for the new commander in chief.

In interviews before his departure, Obama made clear that he intends to press Benjamin Netanyahu, the new Israeli prime minister, to stop the development of Jewish settlements in the West Bank, something the new Israeli leader has explicitly rejected.

But supporters of Israel have urged the president not to tilt too far against America's staunchest ally in the region. That pressure will make the tone of his outreach to the Muslim world in Cairo even more sensitive.

After spending just 12 hours in Cairo, Obama will head to Germany, where he will visit the former Buchenwald Nazi concentration camp and pay tribute to the victims of the Holocaust, and then visit the Landstuhl medical facility, where American troops abroad are treated.

As a presidential candidate, Obama canceled a visit to Landstuhl during his campaign swing through Europe in July of 2008. The campaign said it feared such a visit would be seen as too much of a campaign stop, but Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) attacked him for failing to make the visit to the injured American troops.

From Germany, Obama will head to France to take part in the 65th anniversary of the D-Day landing at Normandy. He will give a speech at the American cemetery in Coleville and will hold meetings with the French president.

Posted at 12:26 PM ET on Jun 2, 2009  | Category:  Obama Abroad
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I am not a expert on foreign or international relations, but as someone who grew up in a religious home, when I first learned of that part of the world... I never imagined war and conflicts.

It would seem at times that we are back in the days of the Old Testament. I do not have the answers to this 'balancing act' but in the words of John Lennon " lets give peace a chance." It may not happen.. but trying is just a first step. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K0l2OS04K-A

Posted by: Victoria5 | June 3, 2009 12:50 AM

With friends like that, who needs enemies ?
Posted by: heibett
***

Nimrod Novik
Chairman of the Economic Cooperation Foundation (ECF) & former Foreign Policy Advisor to Shimon Peres

"With much at stake, we Israelis have been eager to identify friends, and equally quick in appointing enemies. All too often though, history has proven us wrong.

Few still remember that the emergence of George Shultz as U.S. Secretary of State was greeted with concern in Jerusalem. "An enemy" was born. After all, his previous tenure was with a construction giant whose business depended much on Saudi government contracts. Yet, few before him or since have enshrined their commitment to Israel in more meaningful ways: he initiated the two most important forums for bilateral consultations on Israeli security and economic needs. Both exist to this very day.

President Jimmy Carter is another "enemy." His bizarre anti-Israel twist of recent years is allowed to overshadow his unprecedented contribution to Israeli security when, as president he brokered the peace treaty with Egypt.

Finally, it was "the enemy" Jim Baker whose objection to our settlement policy was deemed more important than his statesmanship which dragged President Hafez Assad of Syria, along with virtually the entire Arab World to a peace conference with Israel's hard line Prime Minister Shamir.

Conversely, President George W. Bush, the most recent holder of the title "Israel's best friend ever in the White House" left a legacy with little evidence for contribution to that which is most relevant to Israeli security: reduced Arab-Israeli tension.

All this may suggest that something is wrong with our instinctive labeling of friends and enemies as well as with our definition of both."

Posted by: j2hess | June 2, 2009 8:41 PM

The White House said that Obama will send a message from Egypt to the Islamic world, but they forgot that his messages have already been received by the Islamic world when he visited the Wailing Wall, put on his head the Jew's cap and prayed their prayers - where he wore a yarmulke.
Obama described the U.S.-Israeli relationship as a special one in which Americans are "deeply sympathetic" toward what he called a "stalwart ally,"
If that is so then Palestine-Israel conflict is being handled in the wrong hands, the US, because the US must be biased in favor of israel.
Muslims want tangible change on Mideast from Obama, not just a propaganda speech directed to the Muslim World.
Is Saudi Arabia a stalwart ally ?


Posted by: fan2lee1 | June 2, 2009 7:11 PM

When it comes to our nation's Defense, and Policies;

Obasama should learn these clues:

http://blog.heritage.org/2009/06/01/text-of-romneys-speech-the-care-of-freedom/

FAST! ;~)

Posted by: SAINT---The | June 2, 2009 6:27 PM

With friends like that, who needs enemies ?

Ofer, Israel

Posted by: heibett | June 2, 2009 4:58 PM

Stand by for Mea Culpa Tour II...hope this time that someone is there to kick him where it counts when he bows in fealty to the Saudi king again.

Posted by: DQuixote1 | June 2, 2009 4:23 PM

Obama described the U.S.-Israeli relationship as a special one in which Americans are "deeply sympathetic" toward what he called a "stalwart ally,"

If that is so then Palestine-Israel conflict is being handled in the wrong hands, the US, because the US must be biased in favor of israel.

Muslims want tangible change on Mideast from Obama, not just a propaganda speech directed to the Muslim World.

Is Saudi Arabia a stalwart ally ?


Posted by: fan2lee1 | June 2, 2009 4:14 PM

Iran is a signatory of the non-proliferation treaty, along with most nations of the world. This gives Iran the right to develop nuclear power, but not nuclear weapons.

Iran has never resolved to exterminate Israel. Ahmadinejad proclaimed that 'Israel would disappear from the pages of history', which is quite different from saying anything about Iran attacking Israel. Iran knows quite well that Israel has nuclear weapons and that any attack would be fatal. Despite what the noisy demagogue Rush says, the ayatollahs of Iran have proven at least as rational as any other world leaders.

I wish Obama success in his efforts to bring more cooperation to the Middle East.

I also wish him success in his efforts save capitalism by repairing the damage inflicted on it by bad CEOs, lazy directors, corrupt accounting firms, and conflicted politicians.

I wish Rush Limbaugh an afterlife in the room of Satre's "No Exit" shared with the likes of Coulter, Rove, Kagan, O'Reilly, Savage, Palin, and Kristol.

And all you dittoheads out there posting these silly comments, I wish you 4 cases of beer a day, but only after taking away your car keys.

Posted by: j2hess | June 2, 2009 2:35 PM

Rush Limbaugh's prediction correct. Obama states Iran has "right" to nuclear power. His Marxist Agenda - MUST FAIL.. before he dismantles America.

President Barack Obama "forked tongue" - suggested that Iran may have some
--------
Who is more paranoid and cloisterd: Rush or Kim?

Not that Rush would ever know -- a mind is terrible thing to waste -- or give away...

Posted by: thegreatpotatospamof2003 | June 2, 2009 2:15 PM

obama - please stay home. In your short time as President, you have managed to humiliate yourself and us every time you meet foreign leaders. From your tacky DVD's, to your bow to Saudi leaders, to your listening to Communists rant against the USA for 1 hour, you are an EMBARASSMENT!

Posted by: pgr88 | June 2, 2009 2:12 PM

Boy, I hope he goes out there and slams the US again in a foreign country. He loves doing that. No one beats up the US as much as he does on his Obama Love Fest Tours. When is he going to learn that being a President isn't campaigning. He loves to make campaign speaches when what he really needs to do is to run the country and get this economy moving... Stop trying to solve every world problem and focus on just one thing for once.. and actually get it right for a change.

Posted by: tbastian | June 2, 2009 2:07 PM

Peace. The pursuit of peace. The continual reminder of mutual respect. The letting of by-gones BE.... bygones... somehow.......... Maybe like... maybe.... Northern Irelands model?... Maybe?... Just a...... little?... Maybe like Our Prezs actual existence?... Hope lives eternal.... with Our Prez.... I love this MAN.

Posted by: deepthroat21 | June 2, 2009 1:34 PM

Any chance that 0bama might condemn the ongoing Egyptian oppression of their Coptic Christian minority?

Posted by: NeverLeft | June 2, 2009 1:26 PM

Rush Limbaugh's prediction correct. Obama states Iran has "right" to nuclear power. His Marxist Agenda - MUST FAIL.. before he dismantles America.

President Barack Obama "forked tongue" - suggested that Iran may have some right to nuclear energy _ provided it proves by the end of the year that its aspirations are peaceful.

In a BBC interview broadcast Tuesday, he also restated plans to pursue direct diplomacy with Tehran to encourage it set aside any ambitions for nuclear weapons it might harbor.

U.S. - Israeli relationship takes new direction... The popular consensus is, no destruction of Jewish Communities will convince Obama to act against Iran's resolve to exterminate Israel.

The beginning of the end for Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde - as already begun.... Limbaugh again repeated today, Obama Marxist Agenda, MUST FAIL.

Posted by: hasinc67 | June 2, 2009 1:06 PM

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