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Obama Lays Out His Plan for Pressuring Arab Leaders

By Glenn Kessler
President Obama recently wrote letters to Arab leaders detailing the steps he hopes they will take on Middle East peace, the president told 16 Jewish leaders in a White House meeting this afternoon.

The president plans to follow up the letters with personal communications, according to a White House spokesman who confirmed the account by Jewish leaders.

Some of the Jewish officials expressed concern that much of the media focus has been on the administration's efforts to halt Jewish settlement expansion in Palestinian territories on the West Bank. Obama emphasized that he is also putting pressure on Palestinian officials and Israel's Arab neighbors to take their own steps toward peace.

Among the steps that Arab countries could take, administration officials have suggested, are allowing the landing of El Al flights, providing visas to Israeli citizens and the opening of economic or trade liaison offices. But Arab officials have been privately skeptical of such confidence-building efforts, and thus far there is no public evidence that the administration's efforts have gained much traction with Israel's neighbors.

Posted at 6:49 PM ET on Jul 13, 2009
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Obama started his Presidency by extending his open hand to both sides equally. When – as expected – both sides went “Ho, Hum”, he showed his Mailed Fist to first Israel, and now the Arabs.

It is obvious to me that Obama is a man who doesn’t like to tip his hand too heavily if he doesn’t have to, and he likes to have his ducks all lined up if he has to play the heavy.

I would suggest that both sides are whistling past the graveyard if they think that he is all talk and no action, and that his careful tactics are putting him a position where the rest of the world will be on his side if this effort blows up.

Obama’s grasp of the tactical use of Diplomacy is refreshing.

Posted by: cseon | July 15, 2009 8:41 AM

WOW9 asks (quite reasonably): "Is peace possible? Isn't the situation in the ME intractable?"

I wish I had an answer...the situation certainly seems to have grown intractable over the years. Israel's settlement program has endeavored mightily, over half a century, to make it impossible for Palestinians to ever regain control of their own land in the West Bank. And maybe this strategy has succeeded.

On the other hand, Jews, Christians and Muslims did live in this region, without grave difficulties, for centuries in the past. The current conflict only began in the first half of the 20th Century, when Britain came into possession of the territory, and managed to set off a struggle, between the indigenous Arabs, and an immigrant, mostly European, Jewish population, for control of the land.

The core of the conflict is an insistence that Israel must be a specifically Jewish state....not that Jews should live there, but that they should rule the land, to the detriment of any and all indigenous people who are not Jewish. How could that fail to lead to violence? It would have been the same if Christian immigrants had come to establish a specifically Christian state, or if Arabs or Muslims tried to establish an Arab or Muslim state, someplace where the indigenous majority was of some other ethnic or religious group.

Ironic, after Jews have been victims of racism in so many places, at so many times, that so many would accept Zionism, a definitively racist ideology, as their salvation against racism.

Posted by: Iconoblaster | July 14, 2009 12:53 PM

"Clairty is Refreshing"

The United States and Israel are finally on the right track regarding the ability to debate the issues of a comprensive peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians.

Having the political fortitude and courage to disagree regarding settlements in occupied Palestine is being a honest friend.

Some times you have to step out side the box,this is what true leadership is about. Taking a genuine hands on approach is needed to deliver an over all peace deal in Palestine and to the rest of the Arab World.

For almost sixty years we have been in a lock step approach with Israel regarding settlements and American foriegn policy has been absent.

Of which has been a costly mistake in pursuit of peace and the quest for a tangible and a real peaceful settlement of occupied Palestine.

I applaud President Obamas approach and the ability to disagree with our allies when there is a difference of opinion.

United States foriegn policy has also been extremly costly in terms of loss of american capital,american lives and damage of american credibility. This has also been a major factor leading to erosion of support within the international community.

I have strong admiration and praise for President Obamas courage to finally give peace in the middle east a real chance of succeeding.

It is also refreshing to see our President deliver tangible results instead of lip service that we recieved for the past eight years with Forest Gump and Darth Vader in the White House!

Posted by: samg720 | July 14, 2009 12:52 PM

To our Jewish friends, please wake up for years the Jewish State has had the undivided attention of America, they have killed & massacred innocent women & children and for that they have always been rewarded well. Yep the jewish lobby & it is all about the strong Jewish Lobby but what about stealing & occupying land that does not belong to the Jews. For once we have a fair voice speaking for the Muslims and my my what an up roar. Peace can only be achieved if the Jewish state leaves occupied stolen land, stop the settlement and put an end to their nuclear development activities.

I respect & love my Jewish friends & I grew up wit close Jewish families, but it seems many Jewish citizen do not agree with the war mongers & leaders of Israel. So rather than crying wolf, give peace a chance and leave the stolen land and stop the settlement and pull down all unauthorized development. Please be aware of the Ides of March, some day the strong lobby can be over taken by hard working, ethical, educated Muslims too, so stop the bickering & let's work towards a peaceful solution just like our Prophets did by showing has that all three major religions of this universe can coexist side by side.

The Republican Taliban Presidency of George Bush lacked integrity and intelligence, he was a cowboy who knew how to shoot & kill & the only thing he could do well under the leadership of the crook Cheney is to create wars & bloodshed of innocent people.

Just stop complaining about President Obama and yes we the Muslims feel like he is one of us and perhaps something does have to do with his past roots, so it is what is and the Jewish lobby, religious leaders and of course the old stale government of Israel need to accept it or pack up & find a home in Crawford Texas, I am sure George Bush has plenty of land to create Jewish settlements in Texas.

Posted by: shamahussain | July 14, 2009 9:47 AM

Its kind of hard to coerce people whom you have already bowed to in a subservient manor.

He might want to stick to just selling out Israel.

Posted by: PSURoss | July 14, 2009 7:00 AM

The Arab world is a place where access to natural resources (up to a century ago water, nowadays oil) determines the distribution of power. Dictatorship is the interface that is used to formalize this distribution of power. In the US and Europe power is distributed based on access to the workforce. In these areas democracy is used as an interface to formalize this given fact. The clash between these civilizations, apparent to everyone since 9/11, has been started because intercultural contacts have increased tremendous in the last decades as a result of cheaper travel, more trade and more accessible means of communication.
Democracies destabilize the regimes in the Arab world as they serve as example to the people of what is attainable with more equally distributed power. Which society will win, the democracies or the dictatorships is determined by how the West handles it's dependence on energy. Mr. Obama seems not to have included that vision in his policies and is trying to sell out the frontline democracy in order to appease the local rulers. It must be said however that the Bush administration also had very incomplete knowledge on the Middle East.

Posted by: theelephant | July 14, 2009 5:09 AM

What pressure is Obama putting on Israel?

Posted by: alysheba_3 | July 14, 2009 2:29 AM

Tell the whole story! The jewish leaders were not happy with Obama's responses to their concerns that he has been favoring the Muslims over them. This was a closed meeting, no transcripts were made public and the 16 American Jewish leaders were told not to publically quote Obama. Is this the transparency that we were promised by this regime? As far as I'm concerned the WP is complicit with this administration.

Posted by: beaufortbilly | July 13, 2009 11:35 PM

Is peace possible? Isnt the situation in the ME intractable?

Posted by: WOW9 | July 13, 2009 9:14 PM

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