Barack Obama has convinced Arabs and Iranians he will put Israel’s interests first if he becomes U.S. president, after a Middle East tour that ended on Thursday.

When it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, many in the region believe, Obama would display the same bias in favor of the Jewish state that they now expect from any White House occupant — even one with a Muslim name and African roots.

“There will be minor changes if Obama is elected, but he will never side with the Palestinians against the Israelis. He knows he can’t afford that,” said Lana Bazzi, 20, a student in Beirut, citing the power of the Jewish lobby in America.

The Democratic senator flew to Germany after visits to Afghanistan, Kuwait, Iraq, Jordan, Israel and the West Bank.

Obama told Israelis their nation was a “miracle” and vowed never to seek peace concessions that would harm its security.

Israelis may have qualms at losing George W. Bush, whom they see as the most pro-Israel U.S. president ever, but some queried Obama’s enthusiasm to prove his loyalty to the Jewish state.

An editorial in the left-leaning Haaretz newspaper said Israel and the region needed diplomatic innovation.

“But it seems that Obama — like his opponent John McCain and Bush before him — is attempting to win the trust of potential Jewish voters at the expense of promoting the peace processes in the region,” Haaretz said.

“Instead of talking about a ‘united Jerusalem’, he needs to become involved in finding a realistic solution for Israel’s torn and bleeding capital,” it added.

Obama declared last month that Jerusalem must be Israel’s undivided capital, infuriating Palestinians who demand the Arab east of the city as the capital of a future Palestinian state.

“Jerusalem will be (Israel’s capital) over our dead bodies,” said Khalil Abu-Sarhan, a Palestinian living in Dubai. “He speaks as if it belonged to him or the Israelis. It belongs to my ancestors who built it with their sweat and blood.”

Obama later said he had used “poor phrasing” and that Jerusalem’s fate must be negotiated.


Hani al-Masri, a Palestinian political analyst, said Obama’s varying statements worried and disappointed Palestinians, even allowing for the candidate’s need to woo Jewish voters.

Palestinian leaders, who met Obama in Ramallah on Wednesday, accepted what he told them regarding Jerusalem, Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said. “He told us final-status issues would be discussed and resolved by the two parties.” (MORE)


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