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Middle East Watch

By Dan Froomkin
12:55 PM ET, 01/22/2009

Mark Landler writes in the New York Times: "President Obama moved swiftly to engage on the Middle East on Wednesday, calling Israeli and Arab leaders on his first morning in office and preparing to appoint a seasoned peace negotiator and former senator, George J. Mitchell, as his special emissary to the region. . . .

"In calls to leaders in Egypt, Jordan and Israel, and the president of the Palestinian Authority, Mr. Obama said he would work to solidify the cease-fire in Gaza and pledged 'his commitment to active engagement in pursuit of Arab-Israeli peace from the beginning of his term,' said his spokesman, Robert Gibbs."

But as Steven Erlanger writes in the New York Times: "With the rule of Hamas in Gaza apparently unchallenged and its popularity growing in the West Bank, the new Obama administration faces an immediate policy choice: support a Palestinian unity government, as Egypt and the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, want, or continue to isolate Hamas and concentrate on building up the West Bank as a political alternative to radical Islam."

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