As war rages in the Middle East and President-elect Obama stays mum, in deference to the one-president-at-a-time policy, the Arab world awaits long-anticipated change once he takes office. Anyone actually think it's coming?

Like President Bush, Obama has condemned Hamas, and defines it as a terrorist organization. Like President Bush, he insists Israel has the right to protect itself against attack. And of course, like President Bush, he is likely to work strenuously, upon taking office, toward a cease-fire between the two sides.

During the presidential campaign, John McCain delighted in a statement by a top Palestinian adviser made in support of an Obama victory. Obama insisted his position on Hamas was "indistinguishable" from those of McCain and Hillary Clinton but told The Atlantic that, as long as Palestinians didn't confuse his "unyielding" support for Israel's security, "It's conceivable that there are those in the Arab world who say to themselves, 'This is a guy who spent some time in the Muslim world, has a middle name of Hussein and appears more worldly and has called for talks with people, and so he's not going to be engaging in the same sort of cowboy diplomacy as George Bush.’ "

Which begs the question, just what change has Obama promised in this area? His silence on the conflict in Gaza is disappointing the Palestinians and those who believed he would take a different approach to the Middle East than his predecessors, according to Sunday's Chicago Tribune.

Noting that Obama has not only spoken out on the economy several times, but also condemned the terrorist attacks in Mumbai, Arab leaders are concerned that his refusal to comment on the conflict in Gaza "implies indifference."

"People recall his campaign slogan of change and hoped that it would apply to the Palestinian situation," said Jordanian analyst Labib Kamhawi, speaking from Amman, Jordan. "So they look at this silence as a negative sign. They think he is condoning what happened in Gaza because he's not expressing any opinion."

No one knows what the conditions of the war will be on Jan. 20 when Obama becomes president. And no one can predict what he will do, but I bet we can guess.


WILL OBAMA CHANGE U.S. POLICY TOWARD THE ISRAELI/PALESTINIAN CONFLICT? Ask A.B. returns this week. Please join my weekly video Q&A by sending your questions and comments to askab@thehill.com. Thank you.