A quick collection of a few early reactions to the President’s speech.
Herb Keinon writes in the Jerusalem Post: “Although Obama made an effort to give some points to Israel and some to the Palestinians, in the final analysis he essentially adopted the Palestinian position that the 1967 lines – and not defensible borders – should be the baseline of any agreement. Obama also adopted the Palestinian position that was a point of sharp contention during the proximity, or indirect, talks last year: that the negotiations should start with borders and security. Israel’s position was that all the core issues, including Jerusalem and the refugee issue, should be discussed simultaneously so that the Palestinians, and not only Israel, will have to make concessions.” MORE
A statement by Israel’s Office of the Prime Minister includes: “Israel appreciates President Obama’s commitment to peace. Israel believes that for peace to endure between Israelis and Palestinians, the viability of a Palestinian state cannot come at the expense of the viability of the one and only Jewish state. That is why Prime Minister Netanyahu expects to hear a reaffirmation from President Obama of U.S. commitments made to Israel in 2004, which were overwhelmingly supported by both Houses of Congress. Among other things, those commitments relate to Israel not having to withdraw to the 1967 lines which are both indefensible and which would leave major Israeli population centers in Judea and Samaria beyond those lines.” MORE
According to Al Jazeera English, the spokesperson for the Hamas government in Gaza said, “We were expecting a lot more from Obama’s speech today regarding the Palestinians who suffer from the hardships of the occupation, and what the Israeli occupation does against the Palestinians. But Obama did not bring anything new. What Obama needs to do is not to add slogans but to take concrete steps to protect the rights of the Palestinian people and the Arab nation. The peoples of the region are not in need of Obama’s lectures. Obama reaffirmed his absolute support for the policies of the (Israeli) occupation and his rejection of any criticism of the Occupation. We affirm that Palestinian reconciliation is a Palestinian affair and that the (peace) negotiations have proven to be pointless. Hamas will never recognise the Israeli occupation under any circumstances.” MORE
Ahram Online reported, “At a Cairo screening of the speech at the Semiramis hotel, heavy applause greeted his statement: ‘At the time when the whole MENA region are casting off the burdens of the past, the change is more urgent than ever for the Palestinians.’” MORE
The Arab-American academic, political activist, and pollster James Zogby, writing in The Guardian, concluded, “For Americans, then, it might be fair to say that the speech was challenging and uplifting. It may even have been a useful speech for US policy-makers, although our current “slash and burn” Congress may be disinclined to act in support of the president’s initiatives – dooming them before they get off the ground. But if the intended audience was in the Arab world, then sadly, the speech fell flat… Recognising the new realities in the Middle East is important. But recognising that Arabs see Palestinian rights as a central concern and have grown weary of what they feel is America’s enabling of Israel’s bad behaviour is important, too. The president got the new realities part right, but he missed a vital opportunity on Palestine. MORE
Reuters is running a collection of man-in-the-street comments from across North Africa and the Middle East, including this one: “”It was a great speech, very eloquent, full of hope, there was a real commitment to democratic transition in the Arab world. But we have heard a lot of beautiful speeches from Obama before and we don’t know whether he can deliver this time,” said Hassan Nafaa, a political science professor at Cairo University. MORE
Tomorrow after Friday Prayers it will be interesting if the Syrians in the audience have any particular response.
If the 2009 Cairo University speech was the opening of the first act, then this speech is the opening of the second act.
Last night after posting my President-as-Pavarotti opera analogy I had a dream about Mr. Obama playing the lead in Ambroise Thomas’s “Hamlet.” In March this opera, based on the Shakespeare play, was performed by the Met for the first time in 113 years. It is an opera in five acts that has two entirely authentic and completely different endings, one happy and one not. My dream only made it through the third act. I’m not sure how this will end.