Palestinian calls for statehood put Obama in sticky position: U.S. experts

English.news.cn   2011-09-26 10:06:28 FeedbackPrintRSS

 Palestinian supporters celebrate upon President Mahmud Abbas' arrival in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on Sept 25, 2011. Abbas returned from New York after he participated in the United Nations General Assembly and requested the statehood recognition. He said on Sunday that the "diplomatic march" to obtain international recognition of a Palestinian state has started. (Xinhua/Fadi Arouri)

by Matthew Rusling

WASHINGTON, Sept. 25 (Xinhua) -- As Palestinian leaders are applying to the United Nations for recognition as an independent state, U.S. President Barack Obama is forced to walk an ever thinning tightrope, experts said.

"He's walking a tightrope that U.S. presidents have been doing since Jimmy Carter," said Dan Mahaffee with the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress.

"But with the Arab Spring, it's an even more uncertain situation to balance the relationship with Israel with support for an eventual settlement with the Palestinians."

Indeed, no other country must contend with so many interests in the Middle East: stability of Mid-East energy resources, an alliance with longtime ally Israel and support for a Palestinian state, Mahaffee said.

The situation grew tenser over the weekend, as Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said his side would not accept any settlement with Israel until it agrees to recognize pre-1967 borders and a freeze of Jewish settlement building. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for talks to continue, but reiterated that the Palestinians must recognize Israel's existence and talks must address security issues.

Last year, the Obama administration kicked off a new round of peace talks between the two sides, and Obama said he would broker a peace deal within a one-year time frame. He has since been slammed for raising what critics have called unrealistic expectations.

Obama said he supports the establishment of a Palestinian state, but emphasized that the decision should be a bipartisan one and not imposed by the United Nations. That will put him at odds with some UN Security Council members, and could cause the United States to be seen as taking Israel's side, some U.S. analysts said.

Wayne White, a scholar at the Middle East Institute and former U.S. State Department official, said the Obama administration's credibility is slipping with the Palestinians, as well as the broader Muslim world, leading to a general increase in cynicism toward the peace process.

This comes at a time when Obama's popularity has been sliding in the region. Since his election, Obama has made an effort to reach out to the Muslim world in a bid to mend fences after the war in Iraq convinced many in the region that Washington was waging a war against Islam, although the Obama and former George W. Bush administrations have denied that charge.

In spite of Obama's efforts, however, polls indicate that U.S. standing in the region is on the decline, a trend mostly attributable to lack of progress on the Israel-Palestinian peace process.

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