Obama’s Speech: the Israeli Perspective

Posted: June 5th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, The Settlements, the US and us | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

The people behind the excellent Foreign Policy Watch blog invited me to write for them during this summer. I will cross-post most of the stuff here. Here are some thoughts I wrote for FPW yesterday, following Barak Obama’s speech in Cairo.

President Obama touched a variety of subjects on his long-awaited speech to the Arab world today, starting from cultural differences, through religion and finally geopolitics. He mentioned countries and events all across the region, and made many historical and political analogies which could be analyzed and debated. I am not an expert on the Arab world, so I will focus on the two major issues that concerned the Israelis listening to the speech – and they were listening, believe me – which are Iran and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

TO AN ISRAELI EAR, what was interesting in Obama’s speech was that on the surface, the American president didn’t really say anything new. He didn’t need to – the location, as well as the events leading to the speech, made all the difference.

Before we get to hardcore politics, what was most striking and impressive, was the effort Obama took in explaining the special relationship between the US and Israel, and especially his clear words against Holocaust denial, which is becoming somewhat of a phenomenon in several Arab countries. Some people didn’t like the fact that Obama went straight from there to the Palestinian tragedy, but most Israelis I talked to were incredibly impressed by the president’s insistence to speak so firmly on the matter in this particular speech, and in that particular place.

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