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Muslims disillusioned over lack of progress

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 (source: Layalina Productions – Review)

Muslims, and Palestinians in particular, remain convinced that US President Barack Obama holds as much promise of a "’just world’ as his war-mongering predecessor," despite the pledge made in Cairo, denounces Iqbal Jassat of Media Monitor Network.

Following Obama’s historic speech in Cairo, he remarks that Muslims were overwhelmed "with a new sense of expectation" that would "reverse strained relations … caused by the Bush administration’s belligerent policies."

Yet, Arab frustration with the United States has grown through a series of recent events, namely US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s praise for Israel’s "unprecedented" offer to curtail Jewish settlements. She later attempted to control the Arab backlash by claiming the US wants more concessions from Israel. Asharq-Alawsat fustigates, "Her words left a lasting sting … [and] angered the dismayed Arab leaders."

Indeed, many fear that the failure to make progress on the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is leading to disillusionment and even radicalization across the Muslim world, continues Asharq-Alawsat. "Angry over the stalled peace process, even moderate Arab countries are considering withdrawing an Arab League plan that offers Israel recognition in exchange for the return of occupied land," the news site ascertains. Jassat notes, however, that Obama has been clear about US intentions from the beginning, "given the fact that [he] established his anti-Palestinian credentials during the American elections with his promise that ‘Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided.'" Obama's approach so far has been characterized by speeches rather than actions, concurs Helle Dale of the Heritage Foundation for the Washington Times. She points out that the Obama administration has emphasized the importance of public diplomacy by intensively using new media, marking "a new era of communication with audiences worldwide." Yet, this outreach has yet to yield tangible results. Even though US approval ratings have surged globally thanks to Obama's personal popularity, Dale writes that this upswing may already have some unintended consequences. "Indeed, setting the bar of expectations so high has actually created a problem. Even the media that are solidly on the side of the Obama administration have started to notice," she says. John Brown at The Guardian agrees, saying, "The new administration should not give overseas audiences the false hope that its arrival on the world scene will mean a sudden, drastic departure from the policies of Bush…[it] should, however, immediately focus on results-oriented overseas initiatives." Brown insists that the US should take a more responsible and globally minded approach, shifting away from military force to diplomacy and attempting to be more sensitive to the concerns of other nations.  "Another demonstration of this new attitude would be to appoint an internationally respected public figure as UN ambassador," he asserts. Dina Khanat at Al-Arabiya remarks that there is in fact no urgency for America to broker a peace between Israel and the Palestinians. She believes that US interests remains the same despite the change in administrations: "protecting Israel, securing cheap oil and preventing ‘radical' regimes from gaining power." This view seems to be pervasive throughout the Arab world, highlighted in a recent speech by Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, according to Asharq-Alwasat."What we see is absolute American commitment to Israeli interests, Israeli conditions, and Israeli security … while disregarding the dignity or feelings of the Arab and Muslim people," Nasrallah said. Radicals in the Middle East are filling the vacuum left by the disillusioned hopes following the US failure to secure a step forward on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Asharq-Alwasat underlines that even at the time of the Cairo speech, Arabs, although pleased by the overture, expected action, "and in particular, efforts by the US to pressure Israel to halt Jewish settlement in the predominantly Palestinian West Bank and east Jerusalem." Khanat remains doubtful about any improvements and stresses that while American interests remain free from threats in the region, the US has little incentive to change its policies and become a more "even-handed negotiator."