OBAMA REACHES OUT....Al Arabiya conducted a very friendly interview with Barack Obama today, and among other things he made it clear that he's not part of the bandwagon that's given up on a two-state solution in the Middle East:
Q: There are many Palestinians and Israelis who are very frustrated now with the current conditions and they are losing hope, they are disillusioned, and they believe that time is running out on the two-state solution because mainly because of the settlement activities in Palestinian-occupied territories.
Will it still be possible to see a Palestinian state and you know the contours of it within the first Obama administration?
THE PRESIDENT: I think it is possible for us to see a Palestinian state I'm not going to put a time frame on it that is contiguous, that allows freedom of movement for its people, that allows for trade with other countries, that allows the creation of businesses and commerce so that people have a better life.
Contiguous? Including Gaza? That's pretty ambitious. But the interview was a short one and interviewer Hisham Melhem didn't press the issue. Overall, Obama kept things mainly at the level of symbolism ("I have Muslim members of my family. I have lived in Muslim countries.") and scored some integrity points for supporting Israel in front of an Arab audience ("Israel is a strong ally of the United States. They will not stop being a strong ally of the United States."). He didn't otherwise say much of substance, but he did confirm that he'd be making a major speech from a Muslim capital sometime in the next few months. I vote for Tehran, just for the sheer spectacle of the thing.
The full transcript of the interview is here.
UPDATE: More here from Marc Lynch, who's extremely pleased with Obama's performance.