In a wide-ranging policy address about the Arab Spring, the president laid out a plan to relieve $1 billion in Egypt’s debt and endorsed the 1967 Israeli and Palestinian borders—a plan Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu immediately dismissed as "indefensible." Daily Beast contributors weigh in.
As an update of his June 2009 Cairo address, President Obama delivered what was billed as a “major speech” on the Middle East at the State Department on Thursday. The speech had few new policy points, though. Obama applauded the Arab Spring revolts and blasted oppressive regimes—although the harshest words were reserved for Libya, Syria, and Iran, the president also chastised Bahrain, a key American ally. Holding up Iraq as a model, Obama said the U.S. would work to encourage free markets and economic growth as a path to stability, including forgiving $1 billion in Egyptian debt. But the biggest news was Obama’s statement on the Israeli-Palestinian crisis. While stopping short of laying out a process for peace, he said, “The dream of a Jewish and democratic state cannot be fulfilled with permanent occupation.” To achieve that, there must be two states "based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps,” he said, while shying away from sticky questions of Jerusalem and the refugees’ fate.
The 1967 plan may not go over so well: In a reaction to the speech, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the old borders " indefensible." Netanyahu, in a statement, said his nation "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," the statement continued. "Those commitments also ensure Israel’s well-being as a Jewish state by making clear that Palestinian refugees will settle in a future Palestinian state rather than in Israel."
In pulling his punches for a supposed ally of the U.S., Asra Nomani says Obama perpetuated America’s track record of contradiction in the region.
The president sketched the outlines of sensible principles and policies. But as Michael Tomasky points out, nice words needs to be followed up by consistent actions.
President Obama’s Mideast speech conjured the civil rights movement and allied the U.S. with Arabs and Iranians thirsting for freedom. Peter Beinart on Obama’s moral universalism.
It was a cautious speech, and one filled more with bromides than specifics.
The blueprint Obama laid out in his speech seemed to outrage Netanyahu more than Abbas, but the arithmetic is a little more complicated this time.
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