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Obamasceptics should be aware that it takes two to tango

The US Middle East policy is designed by President Obama. It is a president driven policy. This, according to an Israeli scholar, constitutes a sharp contrast to the second term of Bush’s presidency, when there was a dual administration; that of Secretary of State Rice and that of Vice President Cheney, and Bush acting like a Supreme Court judge

I will not hide it. Yes, I am a fan of American President Barack Obama. No, I do not think he is superman. Therefore I do not have extremely high expectations from him. He might end up not delivering enough. However, looking from the theoretical and conceptual level, I believe he has got the right thinking and the right vision. It remains to be seen to what degree this vision will translate into reality.

Obviously, it is only natural to be suspicious of his performance. But I find the complete lack of faith in Obama, the conviction of some that he does not say anything new and that there is and there will be no radical changes in the U.S. administration’s policies, astonishing.

That is why the analysis of an Israeli scholar on the Obama administration’s policy on the Middle East has strengthened my view that we are dealing with a totally new mentality and way of doing things in Washington. I would like to share this analysis delivered at the Halki International Seminar that took place last week with Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review readers.

First of all the U.S. policy in the Middle East is designed by President Obama. It is a president-driven policy.

This, according to the Israeli scholar, constitutes a sharp contrast to the second term of George Bush’s presidency, where there was a dual administration: that of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and that of Vice President Dick Cheney and Bush acting like a Supreme Court judge.

Second, the enormous discipline of the electoral campaign team is carried to the administration. Once a decision is taken, everyone goes along with it.

This is the administrative aspect; as to the substance, the scholar has emphasized five points: President Obama is committed to doing something substantial, to achieve a breakthrough on the Arab-Israeli sphere, in the early stage of his administration.

He is willing to engage with the "nasties," like Iran.

He knows he cannot do it alone, he is aware that he needs allies.

His is an interest-driven policy. He has a Kissingerian approach. As the scholar said, it might sound a bit weird to have a democratic president with Kissingerian thinking, yet what drives President Obama’s policy is the answer to the question: What is in our interest? He is the first American president in the history to say: A Palestinian state is in our national interest.

President Obama’s policy is based on the concept that all major problems are interconnected.

Whereas with the Bush administration, there were separate tracks for Syria, Palestine, Iran etc.

He knows for instance that in order to engage with Iran he needs to get the Israeli-Palestinian track moving in the direction of a solution. In the words of the scholar, "He needs to get Palestinian suffering out of the TV screens."

All of this is qualitatively different than Bush’s approach.



Message to the Arab world: ’End hypocrisy’

His speech in Cairo is also testimony to the fact that he will have a different way of dealing with the actors in the Middle East.

The main message to the Arab world, according to the scholar, was the following:

"We want to help you, but we are not going to take out the chestnuts out of the fire for you. You need to help us if you want us to help you."

Obama has also told Arabs what to do in order to help him.

He told the Arab leaders to stop whining and start thinking in terms of their national interests. He also told the Arab world to give an end to hypocrisy. By hypocrisy, he meant the habit of Arab leaders to say one thing in the White House and another in front of the cameras. He no longer wants Arab leaders to use their public as a pretext.

But as the scholar rightly put it, Obama’s main challenge remains what he called, the "leadership deficit." With the exception of King Abdullah of Jordan, there aren’t any willing and able leaders who can combine courage and credibility.

Which brings us to the fact that it takes two to tango.

In fact in the Middle East it takes two, three, four, five to tango, all dancing to different tunes. Thus Obama skeptics should be aware of the fact that if he might not be able to deliver enough, that might not be totally his fault.
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