The More Things Change
I don't want to deny that the ensuing actions will be more important than these words. This sets the table for those actions, and can be very useful. But only if followed through correctly. I think the speech will be met with cautious praise, overall, but this passage in particular shows exactly what a minefield Obama is walking into.
Israelis on the far right, for example, blasted Mr. Obama for what they said was his casting of an equivalency between the Holocaust and the suffering of Palestinians in two concurrent paragraphs of his 55-minute long address.
“How dare Obama compare Arab refugee suffering to the six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust?” asked Aryeh Eldad, a parliamentarian from the rightist National Union Party, adding that Mr. Obama might understand the difference better when he visits the Buchenwald concentration camp in the coming days.
It was a mirror image of the reaction in Gaza, where Ahmed Youssef, the deputy foreign minister of the Hamas government, criticized the speech for not going far enough on Palestinian issues. “He points to the right of Israel to exist, but what about the refugees and their right of return?” Mr. Youssef said of Mr. Obama’s remarks, leaving out that Mr. Obama also said Palestine’s right to exist can’t be denied.
“As a legal specialist,” Mr. Youssef added, Mr. Obama “should know people are under occupation, and they can not recognize the state while they are under occupation, only afterwards. Why put pressure on Arabs and Muslims to recognize Israel while it is not recognizing our existence?”
I mean, there you have it. Of course, the goal for progress would be to allow voices other than the extremes of the Israelis and Palestinians to come forward. However, those are not currently the voices in power.