Obama - Mideast Peace Broker?

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JERUSALEM, Israel - Can Barack Obama be an honest broker for peace in the Middle East? Some Israelis and Palestinians are asking that question as the presumptive Democratic presidential candidate brings his Middle East tour to Israel.

Obama Makes Israel Debut

Obama arrived in Israel to demonstrate his support for the Jewish state and to shore up votes of Jewish and Arab Americans back home.

For more on Obama's reception in Israel, watch CBN News Jerusalem Bureau Chief Chris Mitchell, following this report.

He arrived in Tel Aviv several hours after a terrorist attack in Jerusalem.

A 22-year old Palestinian construction worker drove a bulldozer into a bus and cars just blocks away from the King David Hotel. That's where Obama is staying.

Fifteen people were injured in the attack. Video from a cell phone showed an armed civilian and border police officer responding with gunfire. The terrorist was killed.

The visiting presidential candidate said his thoughts and prayers were with the victims.

"And it's just one more reminder of why we have to work diligently, urgently and in a unified way to defeat terrorism," Obama said.

Terrorism, the Israeli Palestinian peace process, and Iran's nuclear program topped Obama's meeting agenda.

He began his day today meeting Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and opposition leader Binyamin (Bibi) Netanyahu. He also paid a visit to Yad Vashem -- the Israeli Holocaust museum.

Political Balancing Act

Obama is walking a bit of a political tightrope here in Israel. He wants to gain favor with both Palestinians and Israelis, but many are skeptical about some of his previous statements concerning the Jewish state and the future status of Jerusalem.

Last month, Obama said Jerusalem must remain undivided. Palestinians want it split, with their part as the capital of a future Palestinian state. Obama says that's up to negotiators.

Palestinian politician Hanan Ashrawi said she believes Obama shares the same "unequivocal, unquestioning blind support of Israel" as Bush and McCain.

This resident of the Palestinian town of Ramallah echoed that opinion.

"It's the same thing, you know?" Ramallah resident Ghazi Amra said, "There's no difference between him and anybody else."

But Israeli politician Arye Eldad is concerned Obama will not be as supportive of Israel as assumed by the Palestinians.

"I'm concerned when his first name is Hussein… that's why it is very natural for us to worry that his family background might influence his attitude toward the State of Israel," he said.

Obama will tour Sederot -- the Israeli city bombarded by more than 10,000 rockets fired by Islamic terrorists from neighboring Gaza.

He'll also meet with Palestinian Authority officials in Ramallah, where many residents are welcoming him.

One Palestinian said, "We believe that Mr. Obama, once he wins the election in the United States…he will bring peace."

*Original broadcast July 23, 2008.

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CBN News
Gary Lane

Gary Lane

CBN News

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