Foreign Policy Blogs

Overseas Reaction to Obama's Foreign Trip: Part One

As you all well know, Senator Obama traveled to the Middle East and Europe in July as part of his Presidential campaign. His tour may not have given him much of a bump in the polls at home, but what did his host publics think about his visits to their respective countries? Here are some highlights from the global media's reaction to Senator Obama's overseas trip. 

First, Obama started in the Middle East. A correspondent from Public Radio International's “The World” radio program spoke with Mustafa Barghouthi, a member of the Palestinian parliament about Senator Obama's trip.

Barghouthi praised Obama for representing the "highest possibility of change” in American politics. As a Palestinian, though, he said he was disappointed in Obama's balance between Israeli and Palestinian concerns. On the other hand, he said Senator McCain is overshadowed by the Bush administration, even though McCain's positions differ from it.

Ramzy Baroud, editor of, opined in the Kaleej Times that: Those who count on Obama to drastically shift foreign policy in the Middle East can rest assured that there will certainly be a few cosmetic changes, here and there, but nothing substantial.”

Baroud had harsh criticism for Obama's meetings with the Israelis during his trip. Specifically, he argued: “Obama insists on disregarding the US official blind spot that has continued to destabilise the Middle East for generations. If he is indeed interested in straightening the distorted course of his country's foreign policy in the region, then he is certainly viewing it from an Israeli looking glass, the same as used by the Bush neo-conservative clique, which led America into an unrivalled downfall in Mesopotamia.”

While Obama's stance on Israel is generating heat from the Palestinian intelligentsia, meanwhile in Israel, a majority of Israelis (at least, before Obama's visit) back McCain. The Politico reported  that: 

"In the past month, one poll  found 36 percent of Israelis preferred McCain, versus 27 percent for Obama, while in another, 46 percent of respondents said a McCain presidency "would be better for Israel," compared to 20 percent who said the same about Obama. 

“Israelis see Bush as having been better to Israel than almost any president before has been," said Albert Baumgarten, a Jewish history professor at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat-Gan, Israel. Israelis, he said, "feel almost as if he's their president."

Baumgarten, a dual Israeli-U.S. citizen who's supporting Obama, said Israelis believe McCain is more likely to continue pursuing the Bush administration's foreign policy agenda.McCain has received mostly positive coverage in Israel, both for his hard line on Iran and for his military service, including his time as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam. That's an experience valued by Israelis, who are required to serve in the country's armed forces.

 He's also benefited from the support of Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, the former-Democrat-turned-independent, whose Orthodox Judaism and staunch support of Israel make him a popular figure in Israel. Some Israelis, said Jerusalem-based pollster Mitchell Barak, count against Obama "that the Democratic Party is not a welcome place for Joe Lieberman."

To top off this part of overseas reactions, here is a great article in the Christian Science Monitorrelating the major differences between McCain and Obama on their Middle East policy platforms. In a nutshell the CSM says that “Obama is likely to return US to role of ‘honest broker.’ McCain sees fighting Islamic extremists as paramount.”

Next I’ll take a look at Europeans’ reactions to Obama's trip, as well as the domestic reaction to the foreign reaction. Be back soon!



Melinda Brouwer

Melinda Brower holds a Masters degree in Global Politics from the London School of Economics and Political Science. She received her bachelor's degree in Political Science and Spanish at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She received a graduate diploma in International Relations from the University of Chile during her tenure as a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar. She has worked on Capitol Hill, at the State Department, for Foreign Policy magazine and the American Academy of Diplomacy. She presently works for an internationally focused non-profit research organization in Washington, DC.