Palestinian officials are hailing U.S. President Barack Obama's speech
to the Muslim world as a good first step toward resolving the Middle
East conflict. Israel said it hoped the U.S. president's speech will
help usher in a new period of reconciliation in the region.
Something for everyone
was a speech to which many Israelis were not looking forward to.
President Barack Obama had stepped up his calls for a total freeze on
Jewish settlements in the West Bank and for Israel to allow Palestinian
statehood - things that Israel's leadership refuses to do.
In the end, the speech had something for everyone.
pleased many Israelis by calling for Palestinians to abandon violence,
saying the Islamist militant group Hamas must recognize Israel's right
to exist, and calling for the prevention of a nuclear standoff with
Many Palestinians were pleased to hear the U.S. leader
repeat his call for an end to Jewish settlements in the Palestinian
territories, and for Israel to realize the only way to resolve the
conflict is - in his opinion - the two-state solution.
spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said the speech was a
good start towards a new policy that recognizes the suffering of the
Political analyst Mahdi Abdel Hadi, director of
the Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs
in East Jerusalem says the speech contained no new ideas, but went a
long way to making people feel good about the new U.S. administration's
policy in the Middle East.
"It was a moving speech. The new
element is [the] changing [of] the format of the political game, the
tools of the political game, and the scene of the political game. It
is here," he said. "It is the Middle East. It is not Washington. It
is not Paris. It is not London. It is me, here, knocking on your door
telling you, "Trust me, accept me, and I can make a difference."
Israelis had been concerned Mr. Obama might step up his criticism of
the Jewish State and possibly unveil new policies that would be less
favorable to Israel, which receives billions of dollars in U.S. aid
A major Israeli newspaper showed a caricature of
Mr. Obama wearing a Palestinian head scarf, indicating the belief among
some Israelis that Obama favors the Palestinians.
said the bond between Israel and the United States is unshakable. Some
analysts say there is reason for Israel not to expect any major changes
on the part of its traditional ally and supporter.
Period of reconciliation?
government statement said Israel hopes President Obama's speech will
help usher in a new period of reconciliation in the Middle East.
Science Professor Abraham Diskin of Hebrew University in Jerusalem says
he is not optimistic Mr. Obama's strategy of softening the U.S. image
to the Muslim world will bring peace.
"There is no question that
Mr. obama is a great person, a bright person, a great speaker, and a
person who definitely appears - and I believe truthfully - as someone
who believes in a vision," he said. "I am afraid that the result of the
speech today, unfortunately, is going to be at the end of the road,
more violence. Too many times, when people like Obama came with such a
vision, it was understood as weakness."
While the speech
contained no surprises in terms of U.S. policy on the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it did signal what many here see as a new
attitude by the United States.
This U.S. president has taken
on the Middle East peace process early on in his term, unlike some of
his predecessors who have stepped up pressure only at the end of their
Many here perceive this as a sign the new
administration is placing a higher-than-usual priority on resolving the
conflict. With that hope comes the expectation that words will be
translated into actions.