Obama Is Taking the Right Steps in the Middle East

Posted November 17, 2009 at 12:27pm

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has sought a new beginning in the Arab world. He has reached out to Muslims, reaffirmed his commitment to Middle East peace and recognized the importance of speaking directly to Muslims, as reflected by his speech in Cairo earlier this year.[IMGCAP(1)] Recently, Obama has been the recipient of undue criticism regarding his failure to advance the Middle East peace process. It is my contention that the president has helped re-establish America�s standing in the Arab world. The president�s Cairo address was not simply another speech. In that speech the president spoke directly to Muslims and Arabs, not as antagonists who need to take certain actions before achieving U.S. acceptance, but as equals. The Cairo speech commenced the process of engagement and helped establish a bridge of communication and dialogue between the West and the Arab world.Obama has helped develop a climate that has led to positive gains within the region. From the outset, he has made it clear that his administration would actively support Arab-Israeli peace. Over the last 11 months, the Obama administration has attempted to get Israel to freeze settlements and the Palestinians to enhance security and lessen incitement against Israel. For the first time, an American president has demanded that the Arab states take confidence-building measures in response to Israel�s concessions without waiting for final treaties to be signed.The bottom line is that we have no choice but to work together. There will always be differences in our race, culture and creed. However, since Obama has taken office, the president and his administration have reached out to the Arab world by creating new avenues of engagement and dialogue. These steps are of great promise and possess the potential to lead to positive resolution.As Obama said in his speech in Cairo: �It is easier to start wars than to end them. It is easier to blame others than to look inward; to see what is different about someone than to find the things we share. But we should choose the right path, not just the easy path. There is also one rule that lies at the heart of every religion � that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. This truth transcends nations and peoples � a belief that isn�t new; that isn�t black or white or brown; that isn�t Christian, or Muslim or Jew. It�s a belief that pulsed in the cradle of civilization and that still beats in the heart of billions. We have the power to make the world we seek, but only if we have the courage to make a new beginning.�Obama and his administration have engaged the Arab world. Now let�s give the president and his administration the time necessary to continue making gains in the Middle East and the Arab world before we make rash and unfounded judgments.Sulaiman Al-Fahim is chairman of the Arab Union for Real Estate Development, a trade association for the real estate sector in 22 Arab countries.