President Obama made use of his first 100 days in office to set the tone for the coming four years - making clear that the United States has entered a new era characterized by serious, committed and credible U.S. engagement and leadership in the Middle East policy arena.
A review of the Obama Administration's efforts during this first 100 day-period shows that despite coming into office during the worst crisis in the Israeli-Palestinian arena in recent memory, President Barack Obama is off to an extremely strong and promising start in the Middle East, taking action on most of the central items suggested in our Blueprint.
President Obama made use of his first 100 days in office to set the tone for the coming four years - making clear that the United States has entered a new era characterized by serious, committed and credible U.S. engagement and leadership in the Middle East policy arena. With his actions and those of his senior officials, he has sent a clear message to the region and the world that he truly believes that "yes, we can" achieve Middle East peace during his term in office, and that he will spare no effort to realize this long-cherished and long-denied goal.
During these first 100 days, President Obama opened a new and hopeful chapter in American foreign policy, re-establishing U.S. engagement and leadership in the Middle East policy arena. He ended the pattern of neglect, foot-dragging, and erratic, half-hearted engagement that characterized the previous administration's approach and began the difficult but crucial process of restoring our nation's standing worldwide, including leveraging America's recovered credibility toward the kind of robust peace efforts that can finally deliver Israeli-Palestinian and Israeli-Arab peace.
APN applauds President Obama and members of his Administration, in particular Secretary Hillary Clinton and Senator George Mitchell, for all their important efforts during these first 100 days to make toward Middle East peace - efforts that reflect many if not most of the priorities APN highlighted, and recommendations APN offered, in our First 100 Days Blueprint.
- Our call for the President to present to the public a vision of robust, sustained and credible U.S. leadership to achieve peace. President Obama began doing this when he made good on his campaign commitment to make the Israeli-Palestinian conflict a priority immediately upon taking office. He demonstrated his commitment by taking time on his first full day in office to call Palestinian President Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Olmert - his first calls to foreign leaders. He has done so again, over and over, in his public statements in the U.S. and abroad.
- Our call for President Obama to immediately designate "a high-ranking individual, respected and trusted by both Israelis and Palestinians, as the lead U.S. official responsible for the Israeli-Palestinian peace track" and to "vest this individual with the backing of the President and with real authority to hold Israelis, Palestinians, and other interlocutors accountable." President Obama did just that on his second full day in office, naming Senator George Mitchell as his Middle East Peace envoy and noting in his Jan. 22 speech at the State Department that Senator Mitchell "will be fully empowered at the negotiating table, and he will sustain our focus on the goal of peace." Senator Mitchell's visits to the region and the announcement of plans to establish an office in Jerusalem underscore the seriousness with which the Administration views his mission.
- Our call for the Obama Administration to publicly embrace the Arab Peace Initiative. President Obama did this in his Jan. 22 speech, where he noted that ".the Arab peace initiative contains constructive elements that could help advance these efforts." He also did this on Jan. 23, when during a call to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia he reportedly underscored his appreciation for King Abdullah's leadership on the Arab Peace Initiative. Similarly, in a speech on Feb. 7, Vice President Joe Biden stated that ".And in building on positive elements of the Arab Peace Initiative put forward by Saudi Arabia, we'll work toward a broader regional peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors, and we'll responsibly draw down our forces that are in Iraq in the process." He and his officials have subsequent made clear on numerous occasions that the administration views the Arab Peace Initiative favorably.
- Our call for President Obama to "Directly address the people of the Middle East - Israeli and Arab - making clear his personal commitment to open a new and more promising chapter in U.S. Middle East policy, and challenging them to embrace hope and look for ways to promote a more constructive, secure and peaceful future for their region." President Obama did this when, on January 27, he sat for a lengthy interview - his first since taking office - on the Arab satellite channel Al Arabiya, during which he addressed himself specifically to the Arab and Muslim world.
- Our call for the Obama Administration to make clear that the past policy of non-engagement as a strategy toward Syria is over. This is exactly what the Obama Administration did, first with a meeting in Washington between Acting Assistant Secretary Jeffrey Feltman and the Syrian Ambassador to Washington, followed by the trip to Damascus by Feltman and National Security Council Senior Director for the Middle East Daniel Shapiro.
- Our call for the Obama Administration to make clear that the U.S. expects both sides to meet previous commitments under the Roadmap, including Palestinian commitments regarding violence and security, and Israeli commitments regarding settlements and outposts. According to media reports, the Obama Administration has already made clear to Israel, through a number of separate interventions, its seriousness in opposing settlement expansion in both the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Secretary Clinton's strong words against Palestinian home demolitions in East Jerusalem, delivered during her recent visit to Jerusalem, sent a clear signal of the seriousness of the Obama Administration's opposition to - and the high-level of the Administration's engagement on - this issue.
- Our call for the Obama Administration to be willing to directly engage Iran without preconditions. The Obama Administration's decision to begin direct engagement with Iran, without preconditions, including time limits for talks, signals the opening of a new chapter in this important and challenging relationship. The decision to send Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns and National Security Council Director Puneet Talwar to London for P-5+1 meetings on Iran was an important initial step in this new approach.
Our call for the Obama Administration to support the formation of a Palestinian national unity
government, making clear that US relations with such a government will be determined on the basis of the
positions taken by that government and the strategic interests of the U.S., not on the basis of whether Hamas
is included in it. The Obama Administration's decision to include in the FY09 Supplemental Budget
request language to restore Washington's ability to engage a Palestinian national unity government (or a
technocrat government) that meets the conditions laid down in the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006 sends
an important signal that this administration is open to, in principle, the establishment of such a government
and, if such a government is formed, may be interested in engaging it, rather than looking for reasons to