"Barack Obama’s origins and past provide hopes for a new approach to the Mideast crisis." [Antoine Basbous, Director of the Observatoire des Pays Arabes, in an interview)

This new conflict appreciably pushes Obama’s priorities in terms of foreign policy.

The Israel-Palestine crisis brutally forces a priority on his agenda. He cannot escape it, all the more so because he is much more responsive than his predecessors and has access to much expertise in his team, notably due to the inclusion of former members of the Clinton Administration. At the same time

the situation has changed significantly since 2001, and these people are no longer up to date.

In my opinion, this eruption of violence is going to require Obama’s attention, and it will be one of the priorities of his foreign policy.

Barack Obama can commit himself, and yet be different from the others.

He needs a new approach and has a certain number of months to say: All right, all the elements of the problem are known, now we are going to bring this knowledge to bear on getting out of this dead-ended “negotiationitis.”

He must seek peace -- and not prolong the peace process.

Barack Hussein Obama is surrounded by very pro-Israel figures. Does he risk disappointing the Arab countries that are counting on him?

The Arab world does indeed expect much of Obama. From his origins (he wants to be introduced as Barack “Hussein” Obama on 20 January), from his past (he lived in the most populous Muslim country in the world, Indonesia), and from his cultural approach, Obama is new, and [the Arabs] think that this can bring a new approach. While expecting this, they also know that the weight and the presence of the Jewish lobby in the United States, at the White House, and at the State Department, is something very powerful.

He must not think that in the upper levels of America's government there might be anti-Israel leaders. More, being pro-Israel is compatible with a point of view that says: Yes, Israel must be secured, yes, the United States commits to working alongside it. But, at the same time, in order for that security to last, peace must be assured by giving the Palestinians a viable state.

Because a viable state is next to Israel, that is not a denial of Israel.

It is instead, a reinforcement, a strengthening of that state.

It also removes an infection, a corruption of international relations, the consequence of this Arab-Israeli conflict.

Does the European Union have a role to play in the resolution of this conflict?

If the conflict had broken out several weeks ago when Nicolas Sarkozy was still president of the European Union, he would have reacted -- because he has the trust of Israel and knows several Arab leaders well.

But now, since the conflict broke out at the end of the French presidency [of the European Union], it is hard to see Nicolas Sarkozy step into the breach for two or three days.

For the future, France can play a role; it has the means to do so, though less so than when it held the presidency of Europe.

What is more, does Sarkozy want to play this role, geting bogged down in Gaza.

I don’t know.