Can Obama deliver on Palestine, Pakistani media asks

June 5th, 2009 - 1:11 pm ICT by IANS  

Barack Obama Islamabad, June 5 (IANS) Can US President Barack Obama deliver on his pledge to pursue Palestinian statehood, editorials in two leading Pakistani English dailies wondered Friday, even as they lauded the president’s landmark speech in Cairo reaching out to the Muslim world.
Obama might have firmly backed the right of the Palestinians to their own state and rejected the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements in the West Bank, “but his strong support for the Palestinians will not have gone down well with the hawkish Israeli government”, Dawn said in an editorial headlined “Reaching out”.

“Therein lies the problem: there is little leverage that the Americans have - or are willing to use - against a belligerent Israeli government. If the Israelis continue to try and expand the settlements, nothing will placate its Arab neighbours or the Muslim world - rendering Mr. Obama’s words to them empty rhetoric,” the editorial maintained.

Conceding that the “biggest ovation” Obama received deceived during his speech was for what he said to Israel, The News admitted: “And here, he really did speak very differently from any of his predecessors.”

The editorial, headlined “Rhetoric and reality”, then posed a question: Was there equivocation in Obama’s seemingly straightforward statements?

“Does he mean that the building of all settlements will stop and existing settlements be dismantled? And does it mean that America is moving its position regarding the settlements which has for decades been one of veiled ambiguity?

“Only time - and diplomacy - will tell,” the editorial maintained.

Both editorials were fulsome in their praise of Obama’s effort.

“Indeed, it was a sweeping message that tried to show a softer, gentler side of the US, one that emphasised similarities and opportunities and not divisions with the Muslim world,” Dawn said.

“At the very least though, the speech was yet more evidence that the US has put behind it the roughest edges of the Bush years,” it added.

Dawn also had a word of caution.

“The other issue that can undo Mr. Obama’s effort to reach out to the Muslim world is Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons. No doubt few of Iran’s Muslim neighbours will be comfortable with it acquiring nuclear weapons. At the same time, however, the issue is mired in a deep sense of resentment and unfairness: the US has nuclear weapons but it doesn’t want other countries - read Muslim countries - to have the same capability goes the argument.

“How the Obama administration treads that tightrope will determine who wins the psychological battle for Muslim hearts and minds,” Dawn contended.

On its part, The News pointed to Obama’s oratory skills.

“He knows how to work an audience and from the outset his speech was littered with ‘applause points’ and phrases that were crafted with tomorrow’s headlines in mind,” the editorial said.

“There was more to it than a little international grooming,” it added.

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