I think the central disappointment for the much of the world, and not just in the Arab world, has been the Arab-Israeli issue, and I think Obama has mishandled that. He appointed a high level negotiator in George Mitchell, which was fine, as was the shuttling back and forth of U.S. officials to build confidence. But then Obama decided that he was going to get personally involved, and he put a lot of his personal prestige on the line.
Whatever you think of what should and should not be done in the Middle East, I think it’s clear that the Obama approach didn’t work. He tried to get the Israelis to freeze settlement activity, and they didn’t. And his efforts didn’t result in any kind of resumption of serious negotiations – so his strategy went nowhere. A better approach, in my view, would have been to spend more time trying to figure out what the likely path to success was – and if there wasn’t one, to avoid any great exertion of presidential prestige.
Obama’s approach ended up with no results, a public spat with the Israeli prime minister (which hasn’t helped him politically at home) and disappointment elsewhere. People believe in winners, and to see a president not be successful on this big issue is bound to affect views of him.