It is nearly one year since Pres. Obama’s historic inauguration. But veteran Palestinian-Jordanian journalist Rami Khouri captured a sentiment that’s very common in the Middle East when he told our radio show “CNI: Jerusalem Calling” on January 7 that,
A year after his inauguration he hasn’t made much difference yet.
He has certainly changed the rhetoric of the United States. He has made a few policy moves that are different than what George Bush was doing. But beyond the realm of rhetoric and a few limited moves he really hasn’t gotten into the substantive changes that one would have expected from what he was saying during the campaign and in the first couple of months of his presidency, when he was pushing very hard on the theme of change and a new way of diplomacy, etcetera.
But a year later, it seems that it’s more talk than action.
There is still a little sense of ambiguity as to whether it is going to stay like this and what we see is what we get, or whether he’s holding back because he’s more preoccupied with other things. We really don’t know that yet…
There really is disappointment [in the Middle East], because he really raised expectations… He made moves that were substantive though narrow in their scope. But they were substantive, and they were from the first moment…
So he raised expectations really high. We have to assume that he was sincere. This is not a man who goes around just whimsically saying things. He must have been sincere…
Why he changed course, it’s not entirely clear. But we can tell some things. The Israelis, obviously, put their foot down, and he couldn’t budge them because of the pro-Israeli forces in the U.S. that threatened to make him into a one-term president if he goes too far. He couldn’t get anything out of the Arabs, either.
Khouri noted that Obama had a lot of different things on his plate, including health care, Iraq, and Afghanistan. He concluded that,
There are a lot of different things on his plate. The reason why he didn’t push further [on Middle East peacemaking] we really don’t know yet. I think this is an issue that is still in the making, I don’t think we’ve seen the full Obama Mideast policy.
There was a lot of other insightful commentary from Khouri in the one-hour show, which I was hosting. In it he discussed strategies that pro-justice campaigners in the U.S. could use to counter the still-powerful pro-Israel lobby, the campaign that the main lobbying group AIPAC mounted against the UN’s Goldstone Report, and the value of mounting a nationwide campaign of Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) that is aimed especially against institutions that support the Israeli occupation, the settlers, and the Apartheid Wall.
… Anyway, if you go to the show’s archives page there, and scroll down, you can listen to all four segments of the discussion that I– and our callers from around the country– had with Khouri on the show.