There are similarities between Senator Barack Obama's visits to Jordan and Germany: Mr. Obama has chosen historic backgrounds for his outdoor appearances.
In Germany, Mr. Obama spoke to an adoring crowd just a few feet away from where the Berlin Wall once stood. In Jordan, the Senator held his first public event near the Temple of Hercules, part of the Citadel complex on a hill overlooking Amman, the capital. The audience however, consisted of an army of reporters, most of whom had travelled with the Senator from the U.S. with few local ones amongst them. A small gathering of onlookers was kept at bay by the Jordanian security forces. Obama-mania was not present!
According to a recent survey from the Pew Research Center, only 22 percent of Jordanians who are following the U.S. presidential election have confidence in the Senator from Illinois. Many Arabs believe that U.S. foreign policy will not change for the better with a new president, according to the same report. The reason, in my opinion, is because most Arabs do not see the U.S. as an honest broker in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
During the early months of the presidential primaries, there was an immense amount of enthusiasm for Obama's candidacy in the Arab world and press, but during my recent travels to the Middle East, I found that although Obama fares much better than his rival John McCain, this early enthusiasm has been replaced by skepticism.
The skepticism began by the Senator's statements on the status of Jerusalem in front of a Jewish American audience at AIPAC's annual conference. His recent visit to Israel and the West Bank only exacerbated this, and was viewed by many as one sided. Senator Obama spent most of his time during this stop reaffirming his commitment to Israel and performing rituals expected by all dignitaries when visiting the country. In his brief visit to the West Bank city of Ramallah, Obama expressed strong support for the creation of an independent Palestinian state, something Palestinians have heard endlessly for the past several years. If elected, he said he will work from the first day in the White House to find a solution to the Palestinian issue...OK, that's new!
The stark imbalance was seen in Obama's indifference to the Palestinian suffering under Israeli occupation. For example, there is nothing wrong with Obama's visit to the town of Sderot where its residents are subjected to Hamas' Qassam rocket barrages, but Obama could have made a stop at the Palestinian town of Qalqilya, and witnessed firsthand an entire population living in fear like caged animals behind Israel's separation wall...but he didn't.
Last night, I watched Obama making his speech in Berlin where the infamous wall once stood, "the walls between the countries with the most and those with the least cannot stand. The walls between races and tribes, natives and immigrants, Christians and Muslims and Jews cannot stand," he said. I imagined him delivering the same speech with the separation wall Israel has created in the Jerusalem suburb of Abu Dis, in the background...but it was only a fleeting fantasy.
Jamal Dajani produces the Mosaic Intelligence Report on Link TV