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Middle East views: Barack Obama

Amid all the excitement in the United States about Barack Obama's inauguration as the country's first black president, Israelis and Palestinians share hopes, fears and priorities for the new US administration.

Falasteen Kilani, student, Ramallah, West Bank
Phalastine Kilani

We actually don't expect anything from any American president, but deep inside I think that Obama will make a difference. He comes from a different background to other American presidents. The fact that he's half black, half immigrant and half Muslim and he made it to the presidency - that is very good and I really respect that he did that for himself.

What I expect from him is to be at least fair, to us, to listen to us and be a little bit different than the other presidents.

I was disappointed a lot in the past, so I'm not going to set any expectations or any hopes in anyone.

I think he should be sitting with [Palestinian Authority] President Abbas, listening to what he needs. I really trust him, and I want him to listen to Obama and I want both of them to meet more often and to try to find a solution for our cause.

Perhaps he can also be more involved with the streets, with the Palestinian people - visit, see what they want, listen to them. Maybe we have a point, maybe we do have the right to stay here or to fight.

Raffi Kaplan, head of a religious school, Ofra settlement, West Bank
Rafi Kaplan

It's funny because I was hoping he wouldn't be elected. I think he's not going to be as good as Bush for Israel. But I was very moved, I had tears in my eyes. I'm very Israeli, I'm very Jewish, very Zionist, but I was proud to be American that morning, and he wasn't even the president I wanted to win!

I think that the world is too much influenced by the fear of the Muslims, and I'm worried that Obama's going to be too close to them.

If the Arabs will see that they don't get a prize for the fact that they're using children, and using terror… if the Americans will back us up and say 'terror doesn't pay, sit down, have peace', I think they'll understand they have no choice.

If he was here I'd give him a big hug. First of all I'd take out a Bible and read a few chapters of history with him... chapters in the Bible about Israel coming home to the promised land. I'd ask him why it's not working, and who is the problem?

I would like to hear why he thinks the only way to have peace is to have a Palestinian state, when I think that right now the Palestinians are proving they're not ready to have a state.

Shai Schticks, basketball league manager, Tel Aviv and Bulgaria
Shay Shtriks

I would ask him to end this situation in Gaza one hour after he starts his job. He has the power to do it and he should do it.

There is no military solution, there are only political solutions. He cannot bring peace himself, but he can bring people to the table and give them logical ideas. It's very simple.

There is no other way than speaking to Hamas. I don't like them also, nobody likes the situation. We cannot kill them, they cannot kill us. Somebody has to find a solution. He must bring them to the table.

I remember that nobody liked to speak with Arafat and then they finished up in Washington shaking hands. You don't make peace with friends, you make peace with enemies.

Nasser Abdul Hadi, hotel owner, Ramallah, West Bank
Nasser Abdul Harde

We were hoping Mr Obama will bring change. But now, what we have seen the last two weeks, it's a genocide against the people of Palestine in Gaza. Mr Obama did not move.

We're always hopeful. He did speak out during the terrorist attack in India, but he did not speak out when 1,000 people got killed - half of them are innocent - in Gaza.

We would like to engage. We have chosen the path of peace, rather than the path of war, but I believe that the whole world, including Mr Obama, is hijacked by the wrong policy of the Israelis, the Jewish lobby in the US.

The US went one way against 300 million Muslims, and now I'm really concerned about what will follow, because fear, terrorism, violence creates violence.

Fadi Halteh, music shop owner, Ramallah, West Bank
Fadi Halte – Ramallah

I don't think he will make any difference. I don't think he will be different from George Bush. I believe that all US presidents that come will do the best for America, not for Arabs or any city or country.

I don't think he will make a difference on peace. I don't think that people who live in America wake up and think about the Middle East - they think about themselves. They are looking only for the weekend.

Every president comes here and says we will make peace in the Middle East - the first Bush said it, Clinton, George W Bush. Maybe the person who comes after Obama will say the same thing. But nothing changes.

Neta Levy, student, Galilee, northern Israel
Neta Levy

I went to the US for four months, I heard about Obama a lot. We hope he will be better than Bush. First he will more involved in what's going on in the Middle East - in Iraq, what's going on there, and to take care of our interests, what Israel needs - not what the Arabs need.

I'm not sure whether Bush was against Israel or against the Arabs, but he wasn't involved enough in what's going on here.

First I think he must take care of the economic situation, for America and the whole world, and then to try to find some solution to help us, because the US is the place that supports Israel most.

I think he can do it. I think he needs to bring help from outside. We feel we cannot speak with Hamas, we need somebody who can speak with them.

My dream for the end of his term in four years would be to sit on Gaza Beach, with the other people there. They tell me that it's a beautiful place and I would like to see it. I may not be possible, but it's my dream.

Judy Kramer, teacher, Ofra settlement, West Bank
Judy Kramer

I don't know if there's ever been anyone as American president about whom so little has been known. I think Americans wanted to be liberal, wanted to go for someone black, who promised to bring change - but we don't know what that means, nobody knows. I find that frightening.

I think the most urgent and pressing issue, for the whole world and for us in Israel particularly is Iran. I pray that this isn't going to be a repeat of World War II where so many countries just turned a blind eye.

The second issue I would bring up is the fight against terrorism. I saw an interview with Barak Obama where he said that if the US had managed to rein Bin Laden in to the extent that he can't get out of his cave, they've done their job. I feel that's a very temporary view of the problem. As far as the world is concerned - Islam taking over the world slowly is something that has to be addressed. I hope that somehow he would be part of a worldwide team that would help find solutions to that.

Fadil Ahmad al-Sultan, Beit Lahiya, Gaza
Fadil Ahmad el-Sultan

Obama? Is he going to be any better than Bush? We've seen Bush & Clinton and we know what Bush did. Don't think that Israel has been attacking us by itself. No. It's the US as well.

America was testing their power on us. They're preparing for a war with Iran, or Syria. I don't know exactly who. But they've been testing their weapon on us. So I think Obama will just want to finish us off. He'll probably besiege us economically, or I don't know what else. The thing is, Obama won't be any better than Bush.

The fact that Obama is taking over won't change anything. I predict new wars. And it's not just me. Everyone expects the same. After they've finished with us they will go on to Lebanon and Iran and Syria. They want to get rid of all the Arabs and Muslims.


Interviews and pictures by Huw Williams and Hamada Abu Qammar



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