President Barack Obama is taking a multi-day tour of Arab flashpoints next week, where he will pressure Israeli Jews to appease politically energized Arabs in Egypt, Jordan and other countries.
“It is obviously a good thing that the people in the region are seeking to express themselves democratically,” declared Ben Rhodes, the president’s deputy national security adviser for strategic communications.
“Israel needs to take into account the changing dynamic and the need to reach out to public opinion across the region as it seeks to make progress on issues like Israeli-Palestinian peace and broader Arab-Israeli peace,’ he insisted.
That task may be very difficult, in part, because a vast majority of Arabs who are living alongside Israel wish to destroy the state.
In December, shortly after the Hamas Islamic government ended its missile-attacks on Israel from its base in the Gaza Strip, a poll reported that the attacks were backed by 88 percent of Arabs in the Gaza Strip and the area around Israel’s capital in Jerusalem. The poll of 1,200 Arabs was conducted by the Arab World Research and Development, based in the city of Ramallah.
Hamas is an Islamic group that believes Jews cannot rule any territory populated by Muslims. It is a branch of the revivalist Muslim Brotherhood, which swept to power during national elections in Egypt in 2011 and 2012.
The new ruler of Egypt, Mohamed Morsi, has described Jews as the descendants of “apes and pigs,” and urged perpetual hatred towards Jews, as mandated by passages in Islam’s foundational document, the Koran. (RELATED: White House downplays inflammatory anti-Semitic comments)
The tour from Wednesday to Saturday is designed to increase mutual understanding between Obama and Israelis, and not to push any plan to reconcile the Arabs and Israelis, Rhodes said.
“This is an opportunity for the president to speak directly to the Israeli people … to tell them directly about what guides his approach to this relationship,” Rhodes said.
During his tour of Israel and the adjacent Arab territories, Obama will also visit Mahmoud Abbas, who largely controls the Arab-populated territory around Jerusalem.
Abbas — who was elected to a five-year presidential term more than eight years ago — is under increasing political pressure from the elected Hamas leader in the Gaza strip, whose popularity increased following his rocket attacks against Israeli civilians.
In fact, a December poll showed Abbas has less support than Hamas’ leader, Ismail Haniyeh. The poll of Arab voters in the Palestinian area around Jerusalem, dubbed the “West Bank,” showed that the leader of the Hamas faction in the Gaza Strip would narrowly win an election — 48 points to 45 points — against Abbas.
The poll was conducted in December by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research.
Obama will not be visiting Hamas’ territory in the Gaza Strip.