Obama should stand strong (but will he? Probably not)

The challenges ahead for Barack Obama as he prepares for his speech in Egypt in early June are many. Will he honestly tackle Israel/Palestine? US-backed dictatorships in the Middle East? Human rights? The New York Times reviews:

Even before the issue of human rights is raised, though, Egyptian leaders and activists will be looking for Mr. Obama to address their first priority: the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. If Mr. Obama wants to improve United States relations with the Muslim world, that is the first step, many here said.

There was a time when progress on process was enough, they argued. Not anymore.

People here want results, a challenge made all the more complicated for Mr. Obama by recent regional developments: the splintering of the Palestinian leadership; the empowerment of militant groups like Hezbollah and Hamas; lingering anger over Israel’s offensive in Gaza; and the aggressive foreign policy of Iran.

Still, there will be an expectation that Mr. Obama drive real changes, initially by having Israel freeze settlements, dismantle checkpoints and open the crossings to Gaza, officials here said.

“For 18 years, the peace process has gone on?” said a high-ranking Egyptian diplomat speaking anonymously under diplomatic rules. “Who in their right mind would think it can go on for another 18 years?”

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