Arab media view of Netanyahu's US visit

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MARCO WERMAN: I'm Marco Werman. This is The World. Benjamin Netanyahu is wrapping up his three-day trip to Washington. The Israeli Prime Minister met with members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Senate and House leaders today. His big meeting was yesterday. Mr. Netanyahu discussed Middle East peacemaking with President Barack Obama. It became clear after the meeting that the two leaders have their differences. The World's Middle East correspondent Aaron Schachter tells us how the Obama-Netanyahu talks are playing in the Arab world.

AARON SCHACHTER: President Obama again expressed his support for a two-state solution and the President told reporters that he had urged the Israeli Prime Minister to stop Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat says Mr. Obama said all the right things, but the Israeli leader's response came up way short.

SAEB EREKAT: Unfortunately, Mr. Netanyahu failed to mention the two-state solution, failed to mention the agreement signed, failed to mention his commitment to stop settlement activities. And the only thing he mentioned was Palestinian's entitled to govern themselves by themselves.

SCHACHTER: But Arakat is probably on the pessimistic end of the spectrum of regional opinion. Few, if any, Arab commentators trust the Israeli Prime Minister, but most seem to believe that Mr. Obama is acting as an honest broker. Editorials praised the president for his firm commitment to a two-state solution and his equally firm declaration that settlements must go. Jordan-based analyst Daoud Kuttab urges patience with President Obama's evolving Middle East policy.

DAOUD KUTTAB: It's clear that this is the first round in many rounds and therefore I think we have to wait and see what happens.

SCHACHTER: Kuttab says the very fact that Mr. Obama is wading into the Middle East morass so early in his term is a good sign.

KUTTAB: The trend has been in the U.S. administrations that the real serious engagements in the Arab-Israeli conflict comes after a war or in the last year of a second-term administration.

SCHACHTER: Kuttab cites the appointment of a Middle East envoy, George Mitchell, as a positive sign. Then there's the President's support for direct dialogue with Syria and Iran and his adoption of the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative. That proposal would give the Palestinians a state in return for Arab recognition of Israel. Commentators in the Middle East are also crowing over the fact that Mr. Obama is meeting with many regional rulers rather than simply the Israeli and Palestinian leaders. And there are expectations here that Mr. Obama's speech next month in Cairo will contain his proposal for regional peace. Aaron David Miller was a Middle East advisor to six U.S. Secretaries of State. He says the Obama-Netanyahu face-to-face exceeded expectations.

DAVID MILLER: This meeting was billed as the President Yes We Can was going to sit down with Prime Minister No You Won't. And in effect, the meeting came out much better, I think, than anybody would have anticipated.

SCHACHTER: Yes, the two men have their differences, says Miller.

MILLER: But each side for the moment has a stake in avoiding confrontation, avoiding highlighting those differences, for one basic reason. Neither side has a compelling strategy yet.

SCHACHTER: There's little question a Middle East strategy has a place on Mr. Obama's �to do list", but outright optimism is probably not warranted. Eleven of Mr. Obama's predecessors have tried and failed over more than 60 years to make peace between Israel and its neighbors. For The World, I'm Aaron Schachter in Beirut.