World Fall-out from a Speach!


President Obama, stated that the “US opposes the use violence and oppression against the Peoples of the region, in Libya where thousands have died, but in other countries where the
numbers are lower but the impact equally as dire for the future of democratic reform.  We support a set of universal rights, include free speech, free of religion, of peaceful assembly, equal for men and women under the rule of law, the right to choose one’s leaders… And we support political reform that can meet the needs of ordinary people across the region.” But again, if the support is limited to rhetoric or is inconsistent then it is empty and will be seen as such.

Perhaps hypocrisy is the necessary handmaiden of diplomacy and real politics. Yet, the President seemed at times to be trying to convince himself, or more likely the American foreign policy, security and economic establishments whose interests he must reflect, of the importance of supporting the rights of the millions taking to the street across the region: “The failure to speak to the aspirations of ordinary people will allow suspicion to fester that the United States only pursues its interests at their expense.”

“Through moral force of non-violence the people of the region achieved more change in six months than terrorists have in decades,” he rightly declared. But this change was, according to his own logic, against the short term-and long term, if truth be told-interests of the United States (or at least of those with the power to represent themselves as protecting those interests).

Going backwards with the Peace Process

Golan Heights - 1967

Few countries embody the “or what?” problem Mr. Obama faces better than Israel, one of the three main subjects of his speech. He tried to appeal to both at the start, by bringing the suffering of the two Peoples into the same context. “For Israelis, it has meant living with the fear that their children could get blown up on a bus or by rockets fired at their homes, as well as the pain of knowing that other children in the region are taught to hate them. For Palestinians, it has meant suffering the humiliation of occupation, and never living in a nation of their own.”

The numbers are so skewed against Palestinians in this regard that it is an act of historical vandalism to counter pose the death of Israeli children against Palestinian “humiliation,” as if Palestinians haven’t died in far greater number by Israeli bombs and rockets, or suffered the pain of institutionalized hatred against them on both sides of the Green Line that has been far more traumatic than what Israelis suffer because of the animosity directed against them in the Arab world.

The President immediately followed up with another false equation, comparing the continuation of Israeli settlements with Palestinians walking away from talks, when it was in fact that former that caused the latter. Indeed, almost every remark that the President made about Israel and Palestine was substantively wrong: his arguments that Palestinians-not merely one party or group, but the collectivity of Palestinians-continue to “delegitimize Israel” and are “denying the right of Israel to exist” is false.

And his warning that Palestinian attempts to obtain a declaration at the UN recognizing their statehood is merely a “symbolic action to isolate Israel” betrays a gross misunderstanding-or at least miss-statement-of Palestinian intentions, which show a justifiable lack of hope at the US ever supporting with actions and not words the establishment of a Palestinian state.

One could argue that in this speech the President did just that, specifically by stating plainly that the US supports the creation of a Palestinian state “with borders that should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps… in a sovereign and contiguous state.”  This statement, which in fact has long been official (if for a long time, unstated) US policy, was part of a larger plan the President outlined, where by the two sides would address “territory and security” issues first, producing an agreement that would “provide a foundation to resolve those
two issues in a way that is just and fair, and that respects the rights and aspirations of Israelis and Palestinians.”