Obama in the Middle East: results, and a price tag

Barack Obama’s first visit to Israel and Palestine has been a lot of things, depending on who you ask: a public relations stunt to a key geoestrategic place that he has neglected for too long; a bring back together trip to heal relations with its second major ally in the region, Israel (the first one is, you know that, Saudi Arabia, the dictatorship); a total failure that didn’t produce any concrete results for the peace process… You name it.

Obama didn’t manage to resume the peace process between Palestinians and Israelis because there was nothing to resume. The surprise is that his moves did work to boost relations between Israel and Turkey.

The President himself announced that Benjamin Netanyahu called Recep Tayyip Erdogan to apologize. The Israeli prime minister said sorry for “the mistakes” that may have been involved in the infamous army assault to the Turkish “flotilla” trying to break the Gaza blockade, a “mistake” that ended up in the death of nine activists. He also promised reasonable compensation to the families of the victims. That has already improved considerably the bilateral relations, almost frozen for the last three years.

So Obama managed to reconcile its main military ally in the Middle East, Israel, with the powerful NATO member Turkey. He also improved his public image. Before the trip, only one out of ten Israelis liked him. By giving a speech directed to its youth (you should demand peace from your leaders; Israel won’t develop as a democracy unless it helps creating a viable Palestinian State), he gained a whole bunch of hearts. He didn’t do much with the Palestinians, but he shook hands with Mahmoud Abbas and even got some relaxed TV moments with the Arab leader, which is not bad considering America vetoed its statehood declaration at the UN Assembly.

There is a baseline of money in the relations between America and the three countries involved in this trip, of course. He tried to highlight part of it by visiting a school in which students research in part thanks to US money. He highlighted also the 450 million dollars put for the Israeli missile defense system Iron Dome.

The American-Israeli relation cost every year at least 3 billion dollar in military Aid, in the form of a grant established in 1985 that made the Jewish country the biggest single recipient of American aid until 2004.

At the same time, America gave Palestinian Authority around 500 million dollars a year assistance to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. When Abbas pushed to get a Statehood recognition, republican congressmen threatened to cut that aid and there were demonstrations in Palestine.

Turkey, on the other hand, received in 2011 a total of 21.000 million dollars in military aid and loans.

About the Author

Ana Fuentes
Columnist for El País and a contributor to SER (Sociedad Española de Radiodifusión), was the first editor-in-chief of The Corner. Currently based in Madrid, she has been a correspondent in New York, Beijing and Paris for several international media outlets such as Prisa Radio, Radio Netherlands or CNN en español. Ana holds a degree in Journalism from the Complutense University in Madrid and the Sorbonne University in Paris, and a Master's in Journalism from Spanish newspaper El País.

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