Thursday, May 19, 2011

A couple of thoughts on Obama's speech

Here are some thoughts I've had from Obama's speech:

1) Color me underwhelmed. Not too much has really changed with this speech. Yes, Bahrain made an appearance--and the Saudis will not be happy about that--but otherwise the rhetoric was, well, rhetorical and consistent with the messaging that's come out of the Administration so far.

2) Speaking of Saudi Arabia, guess who was conspicuously absent in the speech...

3) Frankly I had hoped to see something more significant than "The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states." We all know that, and while maybe this is the biggest forum for that language--I'm not even sure about that point--he needed to go one step further. A clear line in the sand that calls for the removal of existing settlements and the permanent halt to the building of future ones was needed. Mutually agreed upon land swaps is too vague and potentially impossible.

4) Attempting to disentangle Jerusalem from the issue of borders is disingenuous--it is a key component to border issues. East Jerusalem is home to 200,000 Jews/settlers and those borders should not be separate from larger discussions.

5) Obama clearly came out against any attempts by the Palestinians to garner UN recognition for a state, but is there anything in this speech that won't have them follow through on that threat?

5a) The speech offered the Palestinians very little. With language like: "the conflict between Israelis and Arabs has cast a shadow over the region. 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," Obama sets the sides up as Israelis suffer all the violence, Palestinians are taught to hate. That's demonstratively false and ignores the fact that Palestinians have suffered 4x the casualties over the last 25 years.

6) Removing Egyptian debt will be helpful, but isn't that just playing around with the billions in aid already given? Increasing trade seems to be a bigger issue--and more sustainable for future development.


Also what on earth does this mean: "The fact is, a growing number of Palestinians live west of the Jordan River. Technology will make it harder for Israel to defend itself. A region undergoing profound change will lead to populism in which millions of people – not just a few leaders – must believe peace is possible."

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