With Arab opinion like this, Obama needs media advice

The rhetoric of his Cairo speech has soured: the president can only move the debate on with a sea-change in US attitudes

A year ago in Cairo Barack Obama made an impassioned appeal for Arab goodwill and trust. Recognise I am a new type of American, he said in essence, who understands your pain and anger, and respects your culture and religion. “Islam is a part of America,” he declared.

“Let there be no doubt: the situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable … They endure the daily humiliations, large and small, that come with occupation,” he said later in the speech. Then, in a powerful sentence he was to repeat to the UN general assembly, he said: “America doesn’t accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements.”

No wonder Arabs were delighted. True, Obama made no promises of US sanctions, aid cuts or other action to reverse Israeli settlement activity, but they were willing to give him time to show he meant what he said.

A year later the disappointment is massive. A poll taken in six Arab countries in June and July shows the air has gone from the Obama bubble. The percentage of Arabs with a positive view of the US has sunk since last summer from 45% to 20%, while the negative percentage has risen from 23% to 67%. Only 16% call themselves “hopeful” about US policy.

The survey is conducted annually by Zogby International and Shibley Telhami at the University of Maryland. The count… >>>

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