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Sunday, June 07, 2009

Saudi foreign minister Saud al-Faisal feels the love from Obama

On Friday, the day after The One spoke in Cairo, Newsweek interviewed Saudi foreign minister Saud al-Faisal, who very obviously felt the love from President Obama on Thursday.
You've seen presidents–and promises for peace–come and go. Is there anything different about Obama?
We haven't tested this yet, but he showed sincerity in his talk. Different people came away with different impressions, but for me it was positive, balanced, comprehensive and many parts of it were very personal and touching. It hit the right tone from the opening salutation, Assalaamu alaykum, to the quote from the Qur'an at the end.

President Obama is very good at atmospherics.
But the key point was that America is changing policy. It is not the same America. He talked about humility, not power. He talked about democracy—that the United States wished the world to be democratic—but is not going to force the world to be democratic. If he was looking for converts to his way of thinking, I think he achieved it with the audience there, and with audiences everywhere in the Arab and Muslim world.

People were looking for concrete statements.
We told him this when we saw him before the speech. But we did not expect him to be so specific. He called Israeli settlements in the West Bank "not legitimate"—and this is more important, and stronger, than "not legal," which has often been repeated. He could have done more on atomic weapons, because proliferation is not going to resolve itself.

What are Arabs prepared to do now that Obama has come out so firmly against Israeli settlements?
The speech is one stage, but it has yet to be translated into actions. Arab countries have learned through 60 years of experience with Israel that it's not the agreement you reach with them; it's the implementation. [Note: The Arabs are prepared to do nothing. CiJ].

Now you have an American president who understands you, as you say. What is it you actually expect him to do to pressure Israel?
The United States has the means to persuade the Israelis to work for a peaceful settlement. It needs to tell them that if it is going to continue to help them, they must be reasonable and make reasonable concessions.

Should the United States cut off aid to Israel if it doesn't comply?
Why not? If you give aid to someone and they indiscriminately occupy other people's lands, you bear some responsibility.

I would be very frustrated if I were Obama having this conversation with you. You've got Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu saying he won't budge, and you saying "we made our offer. Take it or leave it."
What can we do more than that? The land that is occupied is in the hands of Israel. We don't have anything to offer Israel except normalization, and if we put that before the return of Arab land we are giving away the only chip in the hands of Arab countries.
Like the 'Palestinians,' it seems that the Saudis are just going to wait for Obama to break Netanyahu. Should be lots of fun for the next three and a half years.


At 6:11 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

The Saudis think Obama will deliver Israel to the Arabs on a silver platter. They haven't budged and they will not be forthcoming on Israel. Why should they?

What could go wrong indeed


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