But since Obama made his Cairo speech, Ishtayeh added, "he found his hands tied and couldn't make much progress."
The Palestinians have refused to conduct peace talks while Israel continues to expand its settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem — areas claimed by the Palestinians. Officials have quietly given up hope for any sort of breakthrough until after the presidential election.
Obama also has a strained relationship with Israel, where Bush was popular. Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have been cool to one another in their handful of meetings. Obama's Mideast envoy, former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell, made no progress during two years of frequent meetings with both sides before quitting last year.
Despite the chilly relations between Obama and Netanyahu, overall ties between the allies remain strong. The U.S. has backed Israel on several key occasions at the United Nations, for instance, helping block a Palestinian attempt to join the world body last year without a peace deal and fending off attempts by other countries to charge Israel with human rights abuses.
"Concerning Israel, he has proved that he is not absolutely rigid but is willing to reconsider when confronted with facts that he would not have expected," said Avraham Diskin, a political scientist at Jerusalem's Hebrew University.
"He began very inexperienced on all fronts, but he is a very intelligent person and Israelis see that," Diskin added.
In Iraq, site of the war that fed much of the international community's dislike of Bush, Obama has received some credit for pulling out combat forces last year.
"President Obama has removed so much of the cowboy image of America that has been imprinted in the mentality of Iraqis by Bush," Baghdad lawyer Raad Mehsin said.
But Carawan Ahmed, a high school teacher in Iraq's northern Kurdish capital of Irbil, said Obama has ignored the Kurdish minority, which continues to struggle against the Shiite-dominated government.
"When Democrats, including Obama, are in power, we lose the sympathy and support from America. To be frank, the Republicans protected the Kurdish people, while Obama's administration is not," Ahmed said.
In Mogadishu, former schoolteacher Fadumo Hussein retains a shaken support for Obama, but disapproves of the mounting casualties from U.S. drone attacks on Somalia's al-Qaida-linked insurgency while the country's humanitarian need is neglected.
"He only sent drones, not enough assistance," Hussein said. "We don't need bombs, but other means of assistance."
Obama remains popular in Japan, one of the United States' closest allies, though that may be a matter of style over substance, said Koichi Nakano, political science professor at Sophia University in Tokyo.
"The Japanese like Obama. Maybe they don't know all that much about him, but I guess he continues to be seen as a youthful, energetic, charismatic leader," he said.
America's stature has taken a hit in Japan since the 2008 financial meltdown, which highlighted the excesses of U.S.-style capitalism to many Japanese. They also fret about the increased attention Washington is giving China, which supplanted Japan as the world's second-largest economy.
While still widely admired in Japan, the U.S. "comes across as a more divided country and less self-confident, more concerned about its social harmony and less about the outside world," Nakano said. That's translated into "a general perception that Obama may not be that interested in foreign policy, period."
Obama, however, has tried to build on America's connections to Asia as authoritarian China grows. Adam Lockyer, a lecturer at Sydney University's U.S. Studies Center, said those efforts have been received more warmly in Australia because of who is in charge.
During a visit last year in which he received an overwhelmingly popular reception, Obama announced that up to 2,500 U.S. Marines will be stationed in Australia's north for joint training exercises. Australian government fears of a public backlash were never realized.