CAIRO: Though most major American media outlets were hesitant to signal any specific outcomes from the Obama-Mubarak meeting, the overall tone was positive.
President Hosni Mubarak met his American counterpart Barack Obama last Tuesday in Washington DC.
The Washington Post echoed many American newspapers in its description of the Obama-Mubarak summit as an important event in furthering the American goal of resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict. “[President Obama] voiced confidence Tuesday that a breakthrough can be achieved – and he thanked Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, whom he hosted for meetings at the White House, for playing a constructive role.
After five years off icy relations the meeting marked the first between an American president and the Egyptian leader. American coverage of the meeting from coast to coast noted that this meeting served as the resumption of normalized relations with Egypt.
The New York Times highlighted that the United States efforts to develop “personal chemistry between Obama and Mubarak, noting that this was the third meeting of the two men in three months. In addition, Mubarak pointed out in an interview on American television that he had chatted with Obama several times on the phone even prior to Obama formerly taking office.
The Los Angeles Times noted that the meeting signaled a sharply different approach to the Arab world than the policies of former president George W Bush. While in office, Bush had made the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia its primary partner in Middle East peace process. Obama hopes to work with Egypt not only on the peace process but also in confronting Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
American news analysts maintain that the fundamental hurdle that must be overcome in peace talks is getting one of the sides to make a dramatic move which will likely be reciprocated by the other party.
“Egypt wants Israel to jump first, read a blog post at the Washington Post stated in response to Mubarak’s request that the Israeli’s halt in construction of West Bank settlements. Years of distrust has made either side leery of making a dramatic move, like President Anwar Sadat’s visit to Israel in 1977.
Such moves remain unlikely. Obama believes getting Israel to stop building West Bank settlements is key to restarting the stalled peace process. At the same time American papers noted in their coverage of Mubarak’s visit that Obama is also putting pressure on Arab states in number of ways. The White House is keen to get Arab countries to accept diplomatic Israeli interest sections and to allow flyover rights for Israeli aircraft.
While efforts to end the economic isolation of Israel in the Middle East seem prudent to policy makers, they are unlikely to receive the stamp of approval from much of the public in the Middle East. Neither are efforts to end Israeli settlement of the West Bank going to be popular amongst sectors of the Israeli citizens. A pro-West Bank settler group countered Obama’s meeting with Mubarak by hosting possible 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee on a tour of Israel and contested regions in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.
Some newspapers argued that Egypt’s new role in American foreign policy has come at the expense of other goals vital to American interests such as promoting a human rights agenda in Egypt or peace efforts in the Sudan.