Obama to Bush: Arab nations can do more

Presidential candidate says Arab governments must "step forward to give greater support peace efforts."

obama 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
obama 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
Arab nations, especially wealthy Gulf states, can give "far more" assistance to the Palestinians, Sen. Barack Obama wrote in a letter to President George W. Bush Tuesday in what was effectively a position paper on Israel for the presumptive Democratic US presidential nominee. In a letter reiterating some of the concerns from his June 4 AIPAC speech, Obama said that in light of new threats, three platforms were important: that Israel had a right to defend itself, that Arabs should do more to further peace, and that the US should support the recent overtures between Syria and Israel. Most notable was Obama's urge that Arab governments in particular "step forward to give greater support to the Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts." Obama said that could take two forms: first, Arab nations delivering on their commitments to provide "large-scale financial assistance to the Palestinian Authority," and second, their "making gestures of normalization toward Israel." Obama singled out "Saudi Arabia and other oil-producing states of the Gulf" because of their particular resources to better the lives of Palestinians and invest in Israeli-Palestinian peace." "The Arab states proclaim their great concern for the Palestinian people, and now with unprecedented oil revenues flowing into their coffers, there is no reason not to call on them publicly to provide far more assistance to the Palestinian Authority," he wrote. Obama also stepped up his criticism of US policy. In his speech to AIPAC, the senator had somewhat couched his criticism of US policy, saying, "I don't think any of us can be satisfied that America's recent foreign policy has made Israel more secure." In Tuesday's letter, however, he explicitly said that Israel's security had "been put at greater risk, both because of renewed threats from implacable enemies like Iran, Hizbullah and Hamas, and because of policy choices by the United States." Obama called recent peace negotiations between Syria and Israel "encouraging news" and praised Turkey's role in setting up the talks, which he said could prove to be a "setback for Iran's influence and ability to acquire advanced weaponry." The presidential candidate said Israel's security must be a "fundamental principle" of America's Middle East policy, and that although Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and PA President Mahmoud Abbas had set themselves toward achieving a negotiated peace agreement, they would need "a sustained, concerted effort by the United States to help them succeed." Obama said he was hopeful the recent truce between Israel and Hamas would "bring calm to the people of southern Israel, improve life for the Palestinians in Gaza and lead to the release of [kidnapped IDF soldier] Gilad Schalit."