Editor (Asia – Middle East & Central)
WASHINGTON – It was a tour of mixed results for the Obama administration and American foreign policy . The trip did see a strengthening of US ties with Israel, where the President spent most of his time, and supported the countries claims of biblical roots, touring the ancient sites.
Palestine activists however were left frustrated with the perceived lack of action from the President, some calling him the most pro-Israel President ever. Obama did make some symbolic gesture towards towards Palestine’s efforts for freedom with a speech to Israeli students in which he condemned the restrictions Palestinians face under occupation.
He said: “It is not fair that a Palestinian child cannot grow up in a state of her own living their entire lives with the presence of a foreign army that controls the movements of her parents every single day”.
This was a disappointment for most who feel the President is not sticking to what he previously demanded for Israel, the ceasing of building in the West Bank. Peace talks remain dormant and Obama’s overall embracing attitude towards Israel will leave others in the region let down.
Obama also held brief talks with the president of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas and encouraged Palestine to end demands to end Israeli settlement-building in the hope of restarting peace talks. It is believed Mr. Abbas rejected these calls.
Vice President John Kerry will return to Israel and Palestinian continue efforts.
Success for the Obama administration came with the beginning of reconciled relationship between Israel and Turkey, both of whom are US allies. Relations had been deteriorating since nine Turkish civilians were killed by Israelis in a 2010 navel raid on cargo heading to Gaza. A breakthrough came when Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, apologised to the Turkish Prime Minister for the incident, admitting mistakes were made. The two countries agreed to normalise relations. Mr.Netanyahu also agreed to compensate the families of those affected. Obama continued to smooth over his relationship with Netanyahu by discussing the US’ commitment to confrontation with Iran’s nuclear programme, reaffirming his commitments to Israeli security.
Mr. Obama also held brief talks with Jordan’s King Abdullah about their own refugee crisis following the increasing strain on the country from the influx of Syrian refuges as their neighbours war goes on. Additional funds of $200m were promised to aid Jordan. Although Obama criticised al-Assad, he refused to commit any military support to the rebel forces.
Image Courtesy: Flickr.com (Department of Defense)