Obama’s Al Arabiya Interview

In an interview yesterday with Al Arabiya, President Obama talked candidly about the United States’ role in negotiating conflict in the Middle East. Obama emphasized the importance of setting aside preconditions and focusing on the future instead of harping on the past. He also stated the importance of a multilateral approach to negotiations that would involve the EU and the UN.

Obama acknowledged Israel as a strong ally to America and expressed concerns for its safety. He also said he would like to see the territories grow as place of trade, commerce, business and freedom of movement.

In perhaps two of the most memorable lines of the interview, President Obama tells Muslims that “the Americans are not your enemies” and that the “moment is ripe” for negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian territories.

I applaud President Obama for the interview and his attitude toward the role of the United States in the Middle East. Specifically, Obama emphasized the importance of immediate and continued involvement, whereas President Bush dealt with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict intermittently, and left the brunt of the work to the last months of his administration. The President also suggested that he would listen and advise instead of dictating. While the use of a firm hand is sometimes necessary in negotiations, Obama’s thoughtful, even handed approach will help to restore the United States’ validity as a mediator.

Obama also proposed a more holistic approach to Middle East conflict, incorporating problems in Syria, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan instead of just honing in on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This will undoubtedly prove difficult and complicated, however if ever there was a time to tackle those issues it is now. A fresh face in negotiations is most certainly welcome to all parties.

For a full transcript of the interview click here.