Pres. Obama gave a major speech yesterday, speaking on the Middle East and North Africa and the need for the US to make a change in its policies toward the reason. He went too far according to some and not far enough according to others. A larger, third group is taking time to look at what he actually said and what it might mean for the region.

Perhaps the biggest change in US policy was conveyed through his statement that the US will support Israel-Palestinian peace based on the borders in existence before the 1967 War. Well, that set the fox among the hens… possible Republican candidates for the presidency were screeching about how Obama ‘threw Israel under the bus’ and ‘disrespected Israel’. The really screechy Kyle-Anne Shiver at PajamasMedia—a collaborative website of the conservative/libertarian, and by the way, Israel-is-never-wrong bent—points out that so long as he can’t solve America’s problems, it’s a tad arrogant to try to solve the world’s; beside, Congress will never agree to dropping Egyptian debt. Israeli PM Netanyahu seems to reject the border suggestion entirely.

Arab News didn’t care for the speech, either. It finds nothing for the Palestinians in the speech other than platitudes. I would have thought the paper would at least acknowledge Obama’s shifting of the US position to line it up closer to that of King Abdullah’s 2003 Peace Plan, but no.

Editorial: Fine words again
ARAB NEWS

Obama ignores Palestine is the one and only anvil on which trust in the US can be reforged

Two years ago, President Barack Obama reached out to the Muslim world in Cairo, promising a new beginning to America’s relationship with it.

The Muslim world responded enthusiastically. It reached back in hope having heard him say that it was his duty to fight negative stereotypes of Islam and declare solemnly that the Israeli settlements had to stop and that the US would not turn its back on legitimate Palestinian aspirations for a state of their own.

But over the following months it became clear that there was nothing to reach out and grab. The American hand had vanished. Obama’s fine words had dissolved into meaninglessness. Despite his condemnation, Israel continued with the settlements; despite his implied promise of support for a Palestinians state, it did not happen. The reality was a US which refused to force the Israelis to the negotiating table.

The Washington Post has a piece with a quick regional assessment of the President’s speech. ‘Too little, too late’ seems to be one of the more popular reactions, but The Post notes that there’s actually quite a bit in there, for several countries and their citizens.

Obama speech greeted with wariness, apathy in Mideast
Liz Sly and Ernesto Londono

BEIRUT — The words were stirring, the emotions powerful and the intentions seemingly sincere. “Repression will fail .?.?. tyrants will fall,” President Obama declared solemnly. And America, he said, “cannot hesitate to stand squarely on the side of those who are reaching for their rights.”

But why, wondered those watching the televised speech in the region to which his comments were aimed, couldn’t he have said that before?

As the Arab Spring enters its sixth month, and at a time when some of the region’s dictators are dramatically ratcheting up their repression, Obama’s effort to reset the U.S. relationship with a rapidly changing Middle East seemed to fizzle against the reality of America’s fading relevance.

Obama addressed for the first time the brutal crackdown in Syria, rebuked U.S.-allied Bahrain for its harsh oppression of Shiite dissidents and called, to Israel’s consternation, for a settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict on the basis of Israel’s 1967 borders — an unprecedented step for a U.S. president.

Various commentators noted that the President did not name Saudi Arabia in his speech. He didn’t name quite a few other countries, either, but he did make pretty clear allusion to the Kingdom when he criticized countries that fail to empower their women and who seek to limit human rights and political participation. The Saudis did not miss that.


May:20:2011 - 08:16 | Comments & Trackbacks (6) | Permalink
6 Responses to “No Pleasing Everyone”
  1. 1
    oby Said:
    May:20:2011 - 08:36 

    I actually thought it was rather brave of him to set the tone for the 1967 borders considering it could cost him the election in terms of votes and funding. I was not surprised about Israel being unhappy, but I was surprised that the Arab world seemed less than enthusiastic.

    “Obama’s effort to reset the U.S. relationship with a rapidly changing Middle East seemed to fizzle against the reality of America’s fading relevance.”

    Ok…fine…let someone else handle the whole mess..I don’t care who accomplishes it just get the situation settled.

  2. 2
    John Burgess Said:
    May:20:2011 - 09:21 

    Yes, that response seemed rather sulky. If it’s not good enough, then someone else–surely!–can step in and make everything right. Right? I just wonder who that might be…

  3. 3
    Barkley Rosser Said:
    May:20:2011 - 13:05 

    It is my understanding that the wording about the 1967 borders did not mean that those must be the borders, but that adjustments to reach a final settlement must start from those, implicitly with something close to equal tradeoffs of land. It is my understanding that past Israeli leaders have agreed to the idea of giving up some Arab-majority pieces of land in northern Israel proper to hold onto some of the settlement territories they have taken in the West Bank, although an equal trade of land would have them giving up a lot more than they clearly would like to.

    While it seems that nobody (or might few) are pleased, this was an appropriate time for Obama to speak on the subject, not only because Netanyahu is in Washington, but also because this is near the end of the near aftermath of Obama’s successful effort to kill bin Laden, which gives him serious credibility. It is fine for WaPo to refer to the “fading” of the US role, but Obama has shown in fact that the US has serious teeth, and everybody knows it, which may be why so many are not happy that he is not saying just exactly whatever it is that they in particular want him to say. Equilibrium here may be having everybody at least somewhat unhappy.

  4. 4
    John Burgess Said:
    May:20:2011 - 14:53 

    Obama did say, ‘mutually negotiated adjustments’, so he’s not sticking to any historical map completely.

  5. 5
    Sparky Said:
    May:20:2011 - 15:09 

    @ 2 Jesus is that somebody… Everybody seems to be waitin on Jesus for an answer.

    JESUSSSSS

  6. 6
    Aunty May Said:
    May:20:2011 - 15:14 

    You know if the great Sam Rayburn was alive and was President, I wonder how he would have handled this present situation.

    One will always wonder…

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