Obama to Arabs: Open Your Skies

Obama wants Arab countries to take confidence-building measures: let Israeli planes overfly their countries and enable direct phone links.

Gil Ronen ,

An El Al jet.
An El Al jet.
Israel News photo: (Flash 90)

U.S. President Barack Obama hopes to persuade several Arab countries considered moderate to take "small but symbolic" steps described as "confidence-building measures" in order to "build up a sense of momentum" towards peace, the Washington Post reported Sunday.

The Arab states being singled out in the hope that they would be the first to take such measures are Morocco, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

Direct phone calls to Israel?
According to this report, the Obama administration is trying to coax these countries to open direct telephone connections to Israel and allow Israeli commercial aircraft to overfly over their territory, in addition to other symbolic steps. While Israelis can dial from Israel to any country, phone calls placed to Israel from most Arab countries are blocked.

The Post says that at this point, the U.S. administration's requests for confidence-building measures are aimed at the Arab states and not at Israel.

Obama discussed the confidence building measures with Jordan's King Abdullah three weeks ago, during Abdullah's visit to Washington. His plan also reportedly calls for Arab countries to set a timetable for raising the Israeli flag in their capitals as a sign of recognition of the Jewish State. Simultaneously, the PA flag would be raised in Jerusalem neighborhoods.

Abdullah has since been trying to persuade other Arab states to agree to the plan.

Vice President Joseph Biden hinted at the "confidence building" approach when he spoke before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) on May 5. He said: "Now is the time for Arab states to make meaningful gestures, to show the Israeli leadership and the people that the promise of ending Israel's isolation in the region is real and genuine. They must take action now."

However, Biden also said that Israel has to "not build more settlements, dismantle existing outposts and allow Palestinians freedom of movement ... and access to economic opportunity."