Two years ago, President Barack Obama delivered a historic speech at the University of Cairo. In his address, he clearly and unequivocally called for full democratization of the Muslim Mideast. His call, which at the time was perceived as a naïve statement that angered his hosts, sowed the seeds of the democratic revolutions currently sweeping the Middle East. Obama spoke about honoring human rights and about civil liberties. As it turns out, Arab citizens listened to him.
On Thursday, Obama again delivered a speech about the Middle East. He expanded, deepened and reinforced his democratic vision and complemented it with a highly significant economic pillar. In the last third of his speech, he addressed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Netanyahu and anyone else who slammed the president’s words the other night should closely review his words.
Obama, an Afro-American president considered a “leftist,” unequivocally adopted the essence of the Israeli-Zionist narrative in his speech. I doubt whether we will find even one serving Palestinian politician who would be willing to accept the wording offered by Obama.
So what did the president say? Among other things, he said the following:
- “The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps.” Netanyahu, had he conducted himself wisely, should not have had any trouble endorsing this wording, as long as the size and locations of the territories to be swapped is not pre-determined.
- “Lasting peace will involve two states for two peoples: Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland for the Jewish people, and the state of Palestine as the homeland for the Palestinian people.” According to Obama, the Palestinians are required to recognize Israel as the Jewish State and renounce, in practice, the right of return. No previous US president, including Israel’s staunchest friends, had openly expressed the American position in a way that is so commensurate with the national Zionist-Jewish position.
In the economic part of his speech, Obama pledged to relieve a democratic Egypt (with emphasis on “democratic”) of $1 billion in debt and provide another $1 billion in loan guarantees. However, he immediately added that the aid was not the most important element: The desirable economic model for Arab states, according to Obama, is “based on ensuring financial stability, promoting reform, and integrating competitive markets with each other and the global economy.” He spoke of a modern economy that encourages exports, free trade agreements and entrepreneurship.
What can we say about this ideal? Israel’s Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz could not have said it any better.
There are elements and camps out there that for two years now have been trying to portray Obama as an Israel-hater who curries favor with the Arabs while disguising his communist tendencies. Yet none of the above is true, and the president’s latest speech proved it yet again. It was a speech delivered by a wide-ranging thinker, a liberal Democrat, a leader with principles and an Israel fan.
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