As Barack Obama heads into the world's most complicated region in a bid to establish his foreign-policy credentials as a presidential hopeful, Israelis and Palestinians are voicing a mixture of hope, skepticism and curiosity.
The Illinois Democratic senator, who arrives here Tuesday from visits to Iraq and Afghanistan, has promised a new approach to U.S. diplomacy and a spirit of international healing, and both sides want to see him engage immediately on issues that divide the Middle East.
Many Palestinians worry that Obama will bend over backward in favoring Israel.
Many conservative Israelis worry that the 46-year-old first-term senator with roots in liberal Chicago circles is naive when he talks about peace negotiations. They think he has yet to establish a deep understanding of complex issues, including Iran's ascendance as a regional power. . .
Ibrahim Hooper of the Council on American-Islamic Relations recalled how on a recent trip to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, he spoke with a security guard who said that Obama was "good, like me" and pointed to his skin. "He wasn't saying 'like me' about the false allegations that Obama is Muslim, but because he has the same color of skin," Hooper said.
Hooper also said that he thought that Muslims abroad and in the United States shared a perception that Obama would represent a bigger departure than McCain would from the Bush administration's policies, improving Muslims' standing on everything from diplomacy abroad to civil rights at home.
But Hooper said Islamophobia wasn't limited to any one party. He recalled that Obama volunteers recently kept Muslim women in head scarves out of camera range at an Obama rally, something that the campaign later said was a mistake and counter to its policies. (MORE)