Obama the magician; can he twist 3 refusals into 3 positives?

President Obama turned up in Cairo and asked the Muslim world to recognise that America is not an evil giant. He also called on his listeners to find an alternative to violence and bloodshed, especially when it comes to the Israeli – Palestinian issue.

As Obama pointed out, the revolutions in South Africa and elsewhere were eventually accomplished through peaceful means and not through the barrel of a gun. It is time for the Arab world to deal with Israel as a living and continuous reality.

International media has focused on Israel’s reaction. In today’s Hebrew newspapers, Netanyahu is quoted as saying that partial building in settlements will continue, as per an agreement with George Bush. that does not sound good to much of the outside world.

But how have Arab governments reacted?

Egypt wanted to ban Obama’s live broadcast on the state television. Hamas and the Palestinian Authority have welcomed the pressure on Israel, but not much more. From other countries, silence. No official comment.

And here’s the catch. Because to talk to Israel is a psychological anathema for most Arab leaders and their peoples. When Israel was created in 1948, it had no formal borders, as none of its neighbours recognised it. In place was a series of armistices, but nothing permanent.

And after the 6 Day War, the Arabs were united under the Khartoum Declaration of 1st September 1967: no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with Israel – the infamous 3 “noes”!

Since then, Israel has convinced Egypt and Jordan to sign full peace accords, partially breaking that physche. However, it is a cold peace. Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran and others have more than replaced the hatred from Cairo and Amman. 

Initial indications are that Obama has failed to induce his listeners to accept Israel. Without that, a significant move from Israel will be a solo waltz towards a change in the regional balance of power.

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