In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, Barack Obama reiterated his intent to make repairing damaged relations with the Arab world one of his administration’s top priorities. Though the interview was short on specifics (which isn’t surprising considering he’s several months from being president), the mood music he’s playing conveys quite a bit:
Barack Obama says his presidency is an opportunity for the U.S. to renovate its relations with the Muslim world, starting the day of his inauguration and continuing with a speech he plans to deliver in an Islamic capital.
And when he takes the oath of office Jan. 20, he plans to be sworn in like every other president, using his full name: Barack Hussein Obama.
“I think we’ve got a unique opportunity to reboot America’s image around the world and also in the Muslim world in particular,” Obama said Tuesday, promising an “unrelenting” desire to “create a relationship of mutual respect and partnership in countries and with peoples of good will who want their citizens and ours to prosper together.”
The world, he said, “is ready for that message.”
…Obama said the country must take advantage of a unique chance to recalibrate relations around the globe, through a new diplomacy that emphasizes inclusiveness and tolerance as well as an unflinching stand against terrorism.
Music to my ears. I know the Israel lobby is nervous as hell about this. Outreach to the Muslim world can only mean retreating from Israel, in their eyes. They’d much prefer he stick close to home and focus on domestic policy, namely fixing the economic debacle. In their eyes, this president isn’t capable of multi-tasking. Well, I think he’s going to surprise them.
The lobby is frightened that Obama will negotiate with Iran instead of bombing it; that he’ll support Israeli negotiations with Syria instead of condemning it; that he’ll make contact with Hamas instead of isolating it; and that he’ll put pressure on Israel for concessions instead of supporting it with a blank check. Odds are, Obama will do all or most of these things and still, in the end, prove his commitment to Israel to be unshakeable.