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Ahead of Obama's Cairo speech, Arab leaders see window of opportunity for peace

King Abdullah II of Jordan, embraced by the West and his Arab allies, is emerging as a facilitator for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

President Obama invited Jordan's King Abdullah II to the White House last month. The king was the first Arab leader to meet with the new president.

Larry Downing/REUTERS/FILE

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In a major address to the Muslim world from Cairo on June 4, President Obama is expected to unveil his peace plan for the Arab-Israeli conflict.

While the details have yet to emerge, and numerous challenges remain, many Arab leaders see a window of opportunity to end the conflict after more than half a century.

"The level of optimism is pretty significant. We haven't seen this for a long time," says Mohammad al-Momani, a political science professor at Yarmouk University in Irbid, Jordan. "People believe that Obama understands that there is a need for concrete action on the Arab-Israeli conflict and that he has shown ... significant commitment to [resolving] the conflict."

One of the most prominent Arab leaders seizing this moment has been Jordan's King Abdullah II. While Egypt and Saudi Arabia – whose contacts and wealth have long made them influential – will likely preserve their traditional roles, the king is emerging as the unofficial spokesman for peace, forging ties in both the Middle East and the West.

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