Cairo speech responses

Obama’s speech marks a strategic revolution for Israel

For Israel, Obama’s “Cairo speech” marks nothing less than a strategic revolution. During the Bush era, Israel was America’s friendliest partner in the war on terror, and enjoyed military freedom of operation against the Palestinians, Hezbollah and Syria, for which it in return withdrew from the Gaza settlements. With Obama, Israel has to undergo a re-education, and will have to once again pass a test of its dedication to U.S. interests in the Middle East.

Until yesterday, Obama discussed the Israeli-Arab conflict in terms of interests, and refrained from speaking about values and ethics. But in Cairo, he used the vocabulary and narrative of the American liberal left, whence he came. He spoke unwaveringly about “the occupation” and about the “Palestinians aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own,” and promised that the United States would not turn its back on the Palestinians. He called on Hamas to show responsibility and to recognize Israel’s right to exist; he did not call it a terror organization, but a movement that enjoys some popular support.

In addressing the Palestinians, Obama urged that they wage their war without violence, and he compared it to the struggle of black slaves in America to be freed from white domination, to the struggle of the blacks in South Africa, and to the struggles of other nations in South Asia and Eastern Europe. This is not an easy comparison for Israeli ears: In Obama’s view, the Palestinians are waging a just struggle for national liberation, which reminds him of past efforts to break free of colonialism and Soviet tyranny. [continued…]

Reaction in Israel ranges from relief to outrage

“The government of Israel expresses its hope that this important speech in Cairo will indeed lead to a new period of reconciliation between the Arab and Muslim world and Israel,” said a statement released by the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

His three-paragraph response to the speech made no mention of the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – a formula Obama again championed in his address – or to the U.S. leader’s demand that Israel halt all construction activity on Palestinian lands, something Israel is refusing to do.

Politicians on the far right condemned Obama’s speech and reaffirmed their claim to all Palestinian lands.

“Obama’s words are not the solution to peace and security,” said Rabbi Dov Volpo, leader of the extremist Land of Israel party, who warned a “tragedy” could befall the United States if it threatens the land of Israel, a term used here to refer to a region that also includes the Palestinian territories. [continued…]

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