President Obama Embarks on a Historic Middle East Visit

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As President Obama prepares for his first official visit to the Middle East, he has left no doubt about where he stands:

"...I think there have been times where we are not as honest as we should be about the fact that the current direction, the current trajectory in the region, is profoundly negative, not only for Israeli interests but also U.S. interests."

No previous U.S. administration has been so forthright. President Obama has been firm in his endeavor to facilitate negotiation towards a two state solution. He hopes to leave the Bush Administration's legacy of empty words and no action behind, saying that:

"The United States has to follow through on what it says and be clear about what we believe will lead to peace."
 
As the President makes unprecedented efforts to reshape American foreign policy in this strategically critical yet perennially volatile region. Obama and his staff have been direct when discussing key issues in the peace process.

“The Israelis apparently wanted to check if we are serious on settlements,” an Obama official said, “and they found out that we are…because we believe it's in Israel's long-term security interests.”

Special Envoy George Mitchell, who will be traveling with the President, was equally candid: "The Israelis want us to commit to oral understandings we have never heard about," he said, "but at the same time they are not willing to commit to written agreements their government has signed, like the road map and commitment to the two-state solution."

The Obama Administration did not only reserve "honest" words  for Israel. Last week President Obama told Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas that the Palestinians need to do more to increase security on the West Bank and reduce "incitement and anti-Israel sentiments" in schools, mosques, and the public square.

But perhaps the most important thing anyone has yet said in the Administration is this: "We do have to retain a constant belief in the possibilities of negotiations that will lead to peace."

Recent polls show that nearly all of the American Jewish community wants to see such diplomatic engagement in the region. Nearly three-quarters are willing to have the Administration put pressure on the parties to compromise. Most Israelis, according to another recent poll, support active U.S. involvement in achieving Israeli-Palestinian peace and a majority said that they would describe President Obama as “honest and trustworthy.”

In the course of his trip, the President will be addressing a wide range of issues as he prepares to deliver a major speech in Cairo. We are in a position to give him the political breathing room he will need to stand firm on the question of Israeli settlements and a two-state solution.

Before President Obama travels to the Middle East, please let him know: We have your back! Sign the pledge today at http://obamapledge.org

Please also consider making a donation so that we may publicize this campaign far and wide, to further leverage the power of our collective voices. This is a pivotal time in Israeli, Palestinian, and American history. Let’s do what we can to ensure that peace is achieved!

Resources

Obama: U.S. will be 'honest' with Israel on settlements by Barak Ravid and Natasha Mozgovaya. Haaretz. June 2, 2009.

Transcript of an interview of President Obama by Michele Norris and Steve Inskeep. NPR.  June 1, 2009.

Transcript of press conference between Abbas and Obama, May 28, 2009.

Poll of Jewish Israelis. Avaaz.org. May 13, 2009.

Findings of polling on American Jewish attitudes on America’s role in the Middle East. J Street. July 2008 and March 2009.

 


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