President Obama will arrive in Saudi Arabia Wednesday, his first stop on a Middle East trip that will include a major speech intended to repair a damaged U.S. image.
The president will deliver the widely-anticipated address in Cairo, Egypt, on Thursday in hopes of reaching out to Muslims and begin a dialogue. “I think what is important is that we demonstrate that the United States wants to pursue a different relationship and ensure that Muslims around the world understand the message of the United States,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters Tuesday. “We have more in common than we have disagreement about, and I think that’s what he wants to ensure that the vast majority of the Muslim world hears.” Mamoun Fandy, a Mideast expert, said Muslims want more than talk; they want action. They want to hear “that he is very serious about solving the Israeli-Arabian problem, that he is very serious about engaging the Muslim world on the basis of recognizing the equality,” Fandy said. Watch what Egyptian residents want to hear from Obama » The Arab-Israeli conflict is the most important, most intractable problem in the Muslim world. On Tuesday, Gibbs was quick to tamp down expectations of how much the president can accomplish with one speech. “I think you’ll hear the president say, we don’t expect that everything will change after one speech,” Gibbs said. ” I think it will take a sustained effort and that’s what the president is in for.” iReport: Are you concerned about the way Muslims have been portrayed in recent years
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In recent days, the president has been getting tough on Israel, pushing a two-state solution in meetings with a resistant Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The solution aims to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by establishing an independent Palestinian state peacefully co-existing with Israel.
“Part of being a good friend is being honest,” Obama said in an interview with National Public Radio. “And I think there have been times where we are not as honest as we should be about the fact that the current direction, the current trajectory, in the region is profoundly negative, not only for Israeli interests but also U.S. interests. And that’s part of a new dialogue that I’d like to see encouraged in the region.” After Egypt, Obama will visit Germany and then France for a D-Day commemoration ceremony.