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Mideast Speech at State Dept. Happening Now *updated*

May 19, 2011

President Barack Obama passes Secretary of State Hillary Clinton before delivering a policy address on events in the Middle East at the State Department in Washington, Thursday, May 19, 2011

You can watch it live here.

CNN is live-blogging the speech here. I’ll post the video later when it’s available. Feel free to drop your opinions, thoughts, links in the comment section.

Secretary Clinton’s introduction:

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you all, and welcome to the State Department. I am delighted to be here to welcome the President as well as our colleagues from the Diplomatic Corps, Senator Kerry, and senior officials from across our government, and especially the many young Foreign Service and Civil Servants who are here today.

Mr. President, from your first days in office you have charged us with implementing a bold new approach for America’s foreign policy – a new blueprint for how we advance our values, project our leadership, and strengthen our partnerships. We have seen that in a changing world, America’s leadership is more essential than ever, but that we often must lead in new and innovative ways.

And so, Mr. President, these Foreign Service Officers and these Civil Servants, the men and women of the State Department and USAID, work every day to translate your vision into real results – results on the ground in nearly every country in the world. That is why the work we have done to provide them with the tools and resources they need to perform their mission is so important. And it’s why we need to keep making the case for those resources.

Because alongside our colleagues in the Defense Department, America’s diplomats and development experts of the State Department and USAID are on the front lines of protecting America’s security, advancing America’s interests, and projecting America’s values. As a wave of change continues to sweep across the Middle East and North Africa, they are carrying our diplomacy and development far beyond the embassy walls – engaging with citizens in the streets and through social networks as they seek to move from protests to politics; with NGOs and businesses working to create new economic opportunities; and with transitional leaders trying to build the institutions of genuine democracy. They represent the best of America, and I am so proud to have them as our face to the world.

Mr. President, it is fitting that you have chosen to come here to the State Department to speak about the dramatic changes we have witnessed around the world this year.

Now, on the back wall of this historic Benjamin Franklin Room is a portrait of the leader of Tunis, given as a gift in 1865 by the people of Tunisia in honor of the enduring friendship between our nations at the end of our Civil War. A century and a half later, Tunisians – and courageous citizens from across the region – have given the world another gift: a new opening to work together for democracy and dignity, for peace and opportunity. These are the values that made America a great nation, but they do not belong to us alone. They are truly universal. And it is profoundly in our interest that more people in more places claim them as their own.

This moment belongs to the people of the Middle East and North Africa. They have seized control of their destiny and will make the choices that determine how the future of the region unfolds.

But, for America, this is a moment that calls out for clear vision, firm principles, and a sophisticated understanding of the indispensable role our country can and must play in the world. Those have been the hallmarks of President Obama’s leadership from his first day in office. So, it is with great confidence and faith in our future that I welcome the President of the United States, Barack Obama. (Applause.)

President Obama’s remarks:

Remarks of President Barack Obama – As Prepared for Delivery
“A Moment of Opportunity”
U.S. Department of State
May 19, 2011

As Prepared for Delivery –

I want to thank Hillary Clinton, who has traveled so much these last six months that she is approaching a new landmark – one million frequent flyer miles. I count on Hillary every day, and I believe that she will go down as of the finest Secretaries of State in our nation’s history.

The State Department is a fitting venue to mark a new chapter in American diplomacy. For six months, we have witnessed an extraordinary change take place in the Middle East and North Africa. Square by square; town by town; country by country; the people have risen up to demand their basic human rights. Two leaders have stepped aside. More may follow. And though these countries may be a great distance from our shores, we know that our own future is bound to this region by the forces of economics and security; history and faith.

Today, I would like to talk about this change – the forces that are driving it, and how we can respond in a way that advances our values and strengthens our security. Already, we have done much to shift our foreign policy following a decade defined by two costly conflicts. After years of war in Iraq, we have removed 100,000 American troops and ended our combat mission there. In Afghanistan, we have broken the Taliban’s momentum, and this July we will begin to bring our troops home and continue transition to Afghan lead. And after years of war against al Qaeda and its affiliates, we have dealt al Qaeda a huge blow by killing its leader – Osama bin Laden.

Bin Laden was no martyr. He was a mass murderer who offered a message of hate – an insistence that Muslims had to take up arms against the West, and that violence against men, women and children was the only path to change. He rejected democracy and individual rights for Muslims in favor of violent extremism; his agenda focused on what he could destroy – not what he could build.

Bin Laden and his murderous vision won some adherents. But even before his death, al Qaeda was losing its struggle for relevance, as the overwhelming majority of people saw that the slaughter of innocents did not answer their cries for a better life. By the time we found bin Laden, al Qaeda’s agenda had come to be seen by the vast majority of the region as a dead end, and the people of the Middle East and North Africa had taken their future into their own hands.

That story of self-determination began six months ago in Tunisia. On December 17, a young vendor named Mohammed Bouazizi was devastated when a police officer confiscated his cart. This was not unique. It is the same kind of humiliation that takes place every day in many parts of the world – the relentless tyranny of governments that deny their citizens dignity. Only this time, something different happened. After local officials refused to hear his complaint, this young man who had never been particularly active in politics went to the headquarters of the provincial government, doused himself in fuel, and lit himself on fire.

Sometimes, in the course of history, the actions of ordinary citizens spark movements for change because they speak to a longing for freedom that has built up for years. In America, think of the defiance of those patriots in Boston who refused to pay taxes to a King, or the dignity of Rosa Parks as she sat courageously in her seat. So it was in Tunisia, as that vendor’s act of desperation tapped into the frustration felt throughout the country. Hundreds of protesters took to the streets, then thousands. And in the face of batons and sometimes bullets, they refused to go home – day after day, week after week, until a dictator of more than two decades finally left power.

The story of this Revolution, and the ones that followed, should not have come as a surprise. The nations of the Middle East and North Africa won their independence long ago, but in too many places their people did not. In too many countries, power has been concentrated in the hands of the few. In too many countries, a citizen like that young vendor had nowhere to turn – no honest judiciary to hear his case; no independent media to give him voice; no credible political party to represent his views; no free and fair election where he could choose his leader.

This lack of self determination – the chance to make of your life what you will – has applied to the region’s economy as well. Yes, some nations are blessed with wealth in oil and gas, and that has led to pockets of prosperity. But in a global economy based on knowledge and innovation, no development strategy can be based solely upon what comes out of the ground. Nor can people reach their potential when you cannot start a business without paying a bribe.

In the face of these challenges, too many leaders in the region tried to direct their people’s grievances elsewhere. The West was blamed as the source of all ills, a half century after the end of colonialism. Antagonism toward Israel became the only acceptable outlet for political expression. Divisions of tribe, ethnicity and religious sect were manipulated as a means of holding on to power, or taking it away from somebody else.

But the events of the past six months show us that strategies of repression and diversion won’t work anymore. Satellite television and the Internet provide a window into the wider world – a world of astonishing progress in places like India, Indonesia and Brazil. Cell phones and social networks allow young people to connect and organize like never before. A new generation has emerged. And their voices tell us that change cannot be denied.

In Cairo, we heard the voice of the young mother who said, “It’s like I can finally breathe fresh air for the first time.”

In Sanaa, we heard the students who chanted, “The night must come to an end.”

In Benghazi, we heard the engineer who said, “Our words are free now. It’s a feeling you can’t explain.”

In Damascus, we heard the young man who said, “After the first yelling, the first shout, you feel dignity.”

Those shouts of human dignity are being heard across the region. And through the moral force of non-violence, the people of the region have achieved more change in six months than terrorists have accomplished in decades.

Of course, change of this magnitude does not come easily. In our day and age – a time of 24 hour news cycles, and constant communication – people expect the transformation of the region to be resolved in a matter of weeks. But it will be years before this story reaches its end. Along the way, there will be good days, and bad days. In some places, change will be swift; in others, gradual. And as we have seen, calls for change may give way to fierce contests for power.

The question before us is what role America will play as this story unfolds. For decades, the United States has pursued a set of core interests in the region: countering terrorism and stopping the spread of nuclear weapons; securing the free flow of commerce, and safe-guarding the security of the region; standing up for Israel’s security and pursuing Arab-Israeli peace.

We will continue to do these things, with the firm belief that America’s interests are not hostile to peoples’ hopes; they are essential to them. We believe that no one benefits from a nuclear arms race in the region, or al Qaeda’s brutal attacks. People everywhere would see their economies crippled by a cut off in energy supplies. As we did in the Gulf War, we will not tolerate aggression across borders, and we will keep our commitments to friends and partners.

Yet we must acknowledge that a strategy based solely upon the narrow pursuit of these interests will not fill an empty stomach or allow someone to speak their mind. Moreover, failure to speak to the broader aspirations of ordinary people will only feed the suspicion that has festered for years that the United States pursues our own interests at their expense. Given that this mistrust runs both ways – as Americans have been seared by hostage taking, violent rhetoric, and terrorist attacks that have killed thousands of our citizens – a failure to change our approach threatens a deepening spiral of division between the United States and Muslim communities.

That’s why, two years ago in Cairo, I began to broaden our engagement based upon mutual interests and mutual respect. I believed then – and I believe now – that we have a stake not just in the stability of nations, but in the self determination of individuals. The status quo is not sustainable. Societies held together by fear and repression may offer the illusion of stability for a time, but they are built upon fault lines that will eventually tear asunder.

So we face an historic opportunity. We have embraced the chance to show that America values the dignity of the street vendor in Tunisia more than the raw power of the dictator. There must be no doubt that the United States of America welcomes change that advances self-determination and opportunity. Yes, there will be perils that accompany this moment of promise. But after decades of accepting the world as it is in the region, we have a chance to pursue the world as it should be.

As we do, we must proceed with a sense of humility. It is not America that put people into the streets of Tunis and Cairo – it was the people themselves who launched these movements, and must determine their outcome. Not every country will follow our particular form of representative democracy, and there will be times when our short term interests do not align perfectly with our long term vision of the region. But we can – and will – speak out for a set of core principles – principles that have guided our response to the events over the past six months:

The United States opposes the use of violence and repression against the people of the region.

We support a set of universal rights. Those rights include free speech; the freedom of peaceful assembly; freedom of religion; equality for men and women under the rule of law; and the right to choose your own leaders – whether you live in Baghdad or Damascus; Sanaa or Tehran.

And finally, we support political and economic reform in the Middle East and North Africa that can meet the legitimate aspirations of ordinary people throughout the region.

Our support for these principles is not a secondary interest– today I am making it clear that it is a top priority that must be translated into concrete actions, and supported by all of the diplomatic, economic and strategic tools at our disposal.

Let me be specific. First, it will be the policy of the United States to promote reform across the region, and to support transitions to democracy.

That effort begins in Egypt and Tunisia, where the stakes are high –as Tunisia was at the vanguard of this democratic wave, and Egypt is both a longstanding partner and the Arab World’s largest nation. Both nations can set a strong example through free and fair elections; a vibrant civil society; accountable and effective democratic institutions; and responsible regional leadership. But our support must also extend to nations where transitions have yet to take place.

Unfortunately, in too many countries, calls for change have been answered by violence. The most extreme example is Libya, where Moammar Gaddafi launched a war against his people, promising to hunt them down like rats. As I said when the United States joined an international coalition to intervene, we cannot prevent every injustice perpetrated by a regime against its people, and we have learned from our experience in Iraq just how costly and difficult it is to impose regime change by force – no matter how well-intended it may be.

But in Libya, we saw the prospect of imminent massacre, had a mandate for action, and heard the Libyan people’s call for help. Had we not acted along with our NATO allies and regional coalition partners, thousands would have been killed. The message would have been clear: keep power by killing as many people as it takes. Now, time is working against Gaddafi. He does not have control over his country. The opposition has organized a legitimate and credible Interim Council. And when Gaddafi inevitably leaves or is forced from power, decades of provocation will come to an end, and the transition to a democratic Libya can proceed.

While Libya has faced violence on the greatest scale, it is not the only place where leaders have turned to repression to remain in power. Most recently, the Syrian regime has chosen the path of murder and the mass arrests of its citizens. The United States has condemned these actions, and working with the international community we have stepped up our sanctions on the Syrian regime – including sanctions announced yesterday on President Assad and those around him.

The Syrian people have shown their courage in demanding a transition to democracy. President Assad now has a choice: he can lead that transition, or get out of the way. The Syrian government must stop shooting demonstrators and allow peaceful protests; release political prisoners and stop unjust arrests; allow human rights monitors to have access to cities like Dara’a; and start a serious dialogue to advance a democratic transition. Otherwise, President Assad and his regime will continue to be challenged from within and isolated abroad

Thus far, Syria has followed its Iranian ally, seeking assistance from Tehran in the tactics of suppression. This speaks to the hypocrisy of the Iranian regime, which says it stand for the rights of protesters abroad, yet suppresses its people at home. Let us remember that the first peaceful protests were in the streets of Tehran, where the government brutalized women and men, and threw innocent people into jail. We still hear the chants echo from the rooftops of Tehran. The image of a young woman dying in the streets is still seared in our memory. And we will continue to insist that the Iranian people deserve their universal rights, and a government that does not smother their aspirations.

Our opposition to Iran’s intolerance – as well as its illicit nuclear program, and its sponsorship of terror – is well known. But if America is to be credible, we must acknowledge that our friends in the region have not all reacted to the demands for change consistent with the principles that I have outlined today. That is true in Yemen, where President Saleh needs to follow through on his commitment to transfer power. And that is true, today, in Bahrain.

Bahrain is a long-standing partner, and we are committed to its security. We recognize that Iran has tried to take advantage of the turmoil there, and that the Bahraini government has a legitimate interest in the rule of law. Nevertheless, we have insisted publically and privately that mass arrests and brute force are at odds with the universal rights of Bahrain’s citizens, and will not make legitimate calls for reform go away. The only way forward is for the government and opposition to engage in a dialogue, and you can’t have a real dialogue when parts of the peaceful opposition are in jail. The government must create the conditions for dialogue, and the opposition must participate to forge a just future for all Bahrainis.

Indeed, one of the broader lessons to be drawn from this period is that sectarian divides need not lead to conflict. In Iraq, we see the promise of a multi-ethnic, multi-sectarian democracy. There, the Iraqi people have rejected the perils of political violence for a democratic process, even as they have taken full responsibility for their own security. Like all new democracies, they will face setbacks. But Iraq is poised to play a key role in the region if it continues its peaceful progress. As they do, we will be proud to stand with them as a steadfast partner.

So in the months ahead, America must use all our influence to encourage reform in the region. Even as we acknowledge that each country is different, we will need to speak honestly about the principles that we believe in, with friend and foe alike. Our message is simple: if you take the risks that reform entails, you will have the full support of the United States. We must also build on our efforts to broaden our engagement beyond elites, so that we reach the people who will shape the future – particularly young people.

We will continue to make good on the commitments that I made in Cairo – to build networks of entrepreneurs, and expand exchanges in education; to foster cooperation in science and technology, and combat disease. Across the region, we intend to provide assistance to civil society, including those that may not be officially sanctioned, and who speak uncomfortable truths. And we will use the technology to connect with – and listen to – the voices of the people.

In fact, real reform will not come at the ballot box alone. Through our efforts we must support those basic rights to speak your mind and access information. We will support open access to the Internet, and the right of journalists to be heard – whether it’s a big news organization or a blogger. In the 21st century, information is power; the truth cannot be hidden; and the legitimacy of governments will ultimately depend on active and informed citizens.

Such open discourse is important even if what is said does not square with our worldview. America respects the right of all peaceful and law-abiding voices to be heard, even if we disagree with them. We look forward to working with all who embrace genuine and inclusive democracy. What we will oppose is an attempt by any group to restrict the rights of others, and to hold power through coercion – not consent. Because democracy depends not only on elections, but also strong and accountable institutions, and respect for the rights of minorities.

Such tolerance is particularly important when it comes to religion. In Tahrir Square, we heard Egyptians from all walks of life chant, “Muslims, Christians, we are one.” America will work to see that this spirit prevails – that all faiths are respected, and that bridges are built among them. In a region that was the birthplace of three world religions, intolerance can lead only to suffering and stagnation. And for this season of change to succeed, Coptic Christians must have the right to worship freely in Cairo, just as Shia must never have their mosques destroyed in Bahrain.

What is true for religious minorities is also true when it comes to the rights of women. History shows that countries are more prosperous and peaceful when women are empowered. That is why we will continue to insist that universal rights apply to women as well as men – by focusing assistance on child and maternal health; by helping women to teach, or start a business; by standing up for the right of women to have their voices heard, and to run for office. For the region will never reach its potential when more than half its population is prevented from achieving their potential.

Even as we promote political reform and human rights in the region, our efforts cannot stop there. So the second way that we must support positive change in the region is through our efforts to advance economic development for nations that transition to democracy.

After all, politics alone has not put protesters into the streets. The tipping point for so many people is the more constant concern of putting food on the table and providing for a family. Too many in the region wake up with few expectations other than making it through the day, and perhaps the hope that their luck will change. Throughout the region, many young people have a solid education, but closed economies leave them unable to find a job. Entrepreneurs are brimming with ideas, but corruption leaves them unable to profit from them.

The greatest untapped resource in the Middle East and North Africa is the talent of its people. In the recent protests, we see that talent on display, as people harness technology to move the world. It’s no coincidence that one of the leaders of Tahrir Square was an executive for Google. That energy now needs to be channeled, in country after country, so that economic growth can solidify the accomplishments of the street. Just as democratic revolutions can be triggered by a lack of individual opportunity, successful democratic transitions depend upon an expansion of growth and broad-based prosperity.

Drawing from what we’ve learned around the world, we think it’s important to focus on trade, not just aid; and investment, not just assistance. The goal must be a model in which protectionism gives way to openness; the reigns of commerce pass from the few to the many, and the economy generates jobs for the young. America’s support for democracy will therefore be based on ensuring financial stability; promoting reform; and integrating competitive markets with each other and the global economy – starting with Tunisia and Egypt.

First, we have asked the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to present a plan at next week’s G-8 summit for what needs to be done to stabilize and modernize the economies of Tunisia and Egypt. Together, we must help them recover from the disruption of their democratic upheaval, and support the governments that will be elected later this year. And we are urging other countries to help Egypt and Tunisia meet its near-term financial needs.

Second, we do not want a democratic Egypt to be saddled by the debts of its past. So we will relieve a democratic Egypt of up to $1 billion in debt, and work with our Egyptian partners to invest these resources to foster growth and entrepreneurship. We will help Egypt regain access to markets by guaranteeing $1 billion in borrowing that is needed to finance infrastructure and job creation. And we will help newly democratic governments recover assets that were stolen.

Third, we are working with Congress to create Enterprise Funds to invest in Tunisia and Egypt. These will be modeled on funds that supported the transitions in Eastern Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall. OPIC will soon launch a $2 billion facility to support private investment across the region. And we will work with allies to refocus the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development so that it provides the same support for democratic transitions and economic modernization in the Middle East and North Africa as it has in Europe.

Fourth, the United States will launch a comprehensive Trade and Investment Partnership Initiative in the Middle East and North Africa. If you take out oil exports, this region of over 400 million people exports roughly the same amount as Switzerland. So we will work with the EU to facilitate more trade within the region, build on existing agreements to promote integration with U.S. and European markets, and open the door for those countries who adopt high standards of reform and trade liberalization to construct a regional trade arrangement. Just as EU membership served as an incentive for reform in Europe, so should the vision of a modern and prosperous economy create a powerful force for reform in the Middle East and North Africa.

Prosperity also requires tearing down walls that stand in the way of progress – the corruption of elites who steal from their people; the red tape that stops an idea from becoming a business; the patronage that distributes wealth based on tribe or sect. We will help governments meet international obligations, and invest efforts anti-corruption; by working with parliamentarians who are developing reforms, and activists who use technology to hold government accountable.

Let me conclude by talking about another cornerstone of our approach to the region, and that relates to the pursuit of peace.

For decades, 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. Moreover, this conflict has come with a larger cost the Middle East, as it impedes partnerships that could bring greater security, prosperity, and empowerment to ordinary people.

My Administration has worked with the parties and the international community for over two years to end this conflict, yet expectations have gone unmet. Israeli settlement activity continues. Palestinians have walked away from talks. The world looks at a conflict that has grinded on for decades, and sees a stalemate. Indeed, there are those who argue that with all the change and uncertainty in the region, it is simply not possible to move forward.

I disagree. At a time when the people of the Middle East and North Africa are casting off the burdens of the past, the drive for a lasting peace that ends the conflict and resolves all claims is more urgent than ever.

For the Palestinians, efforts to delegitimize Israel will end in failure. Symbolic actions to isolate Israel at the United Nations in September won’t create an independent state. Palestinian leaders will not achieve peace or prosperity if Hamas insists on a path of terror and rejection. And Palestinians will never realize their independence by denying the right of Israel to exist.

As for Israel, our friendship is rooted deeply in a shared history and shared values. Our commitment to Israel’s security is unshakeable. And we will stand against attempts to single it out for criticism in international forums. But precisely because of our friendship, it is important that we tell the truth: the status quo is unsustainable, and Israel too must act boldly to advance a lasting peace.

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. The international community is tired of an endless process that never produces an outcome. The dream of a Jewish and democratic state cannot be fulfilled with permanent occupation.

Ultimately, it is up to Israelis and Palestinians to take action. No peace can be imposed upon them, nor can endless delay make the problem go away. But what America and the international community can do is state frankly what everyone knows: a lasting peace will involve two states for two peoples. Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland for the Jewish people, and the state of Palestine as the homeland for the Palestinian people; each state enjoying self-determination, mutual recognition, and peace.

So while the core issues of the conflict must be negotiated, the basis of those negotiations is clear: a viable Palestine, and a secure Israel. The United States believes that negotiations should result in two states, with permanent Palestinian borders with Israel, Jordan, and Egypt, and permanent Israeli borders with Palestine. 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. The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their potential, in a sovereign and contiguous state.

As for security, every state has the right to self-defense, and Israel must be able to defend itself – by itself – against any threat. Provisions must also be robust enough to prevent a resurgence of terrorism; to stop the infiltration of weapons; and to provide effective border security. The full and phased withdrawal of Israeli military forces should be coordinated with the assumption of Palestinian security responsibility in a sovereign, non-militarized state. The duration of this transition period must be agreed, and the effectiveness of security arrangements must be demonstrated.

These principles provide a foundation for negotiations. Palestinians should know the territorial outlines of their state; Israelis should know that their basic security concerns will be met. I know that these steps alone will not resolve this conflict. Two wrenching and emotional issues remain: the future of Jerusalem, and the fate of Palestinian refugees. But moving forward now on the basis of territory and security provides 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.

Recognizing that negotiations need to begin with the issues of territory and security does not mean that it will be easy to come back to the table. In particular, the recent announcement of an agreement between Fatah and Hamas raises profound and legitimate questions for Israel – how can one negotiate with a party that has shown itself unwilling to recognize your right to exist. In the weeks and months to come, Palestinian leaders will have to provide a credible answer to that question. Meanwhile, the United States, our Quartet partners, and the Arab states will need to continue every effort to get beyond the current impasse.

I recognize how hard this will be. Suspicion and hostility has been passed on for generations, and at times it has hardened. But I’m convinced that the majority of Israelis and Palestinians would rather look to the future than be trapped in the past. We see that spirit in the Israeli father whose son was killed by Hamas, who helped start an organization that brought together Israelis and Palestinians who had lost loved ones. He said, “I gradually realized that the only hope for progress was to recognize the face of the conflict.” And we see it in the actions of a Palestinian who lost three daughters to Israeli shells in Gaza. “I have the right to feel angry,” he said. “So many people were expecting me to hate. My answer to them is I shall not hate…Let us hope,” he said, “for tomorrow”

That is the choice that must be made – not simply in this conflict, but across the entire region – a choice between hate and hope; between the shackles of the past, and the promise of the future. It’s a choice that must be made by leaders and by people, and it’s a choice that will define the future of a region that served as the cradle of civilization and a crucible of strife.

For all the challenges that lie ahead, we see many reasons to be hopeful. In Egypt, we see it in the efforts of young people who led protests. In Syria, we see it in the courage of those who brave bullets while chanting, ‘peaceful,’ ‘peaceful.’ In Benghazi, a city threatened with destruction, we see it in the courthouse square where people gather to celebrate the freedoms that they had never known. Across the region, those rights that we take for granted are being claimed with joy by those who are prying lose the grip of an iron fist.

For the American people, the scenes of upheaval in the region may be unsettling, but the forces driving it are not unfamiliar. Our own nation was founded through a rebellion against an empire. Our people fought a painful civil war that extended freedom and dignity to those who were enslaved. And I would not be standing here today unless past generations turned to the moral force of non-violence as a way to perfect our union – organizing, marching, and protesting peacefully together to make real those words that declared our nation: “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal.”

Those words must guide our response to the change that is transforming the Middle East and North Africa – words which tell us that repression will fail, that tyrants will fall, and that every man and woman is endowed with certain inalienable rights. It will not be easy. There is no straight line to progress, and hardship always accompanies a season of hope. But the United States of America was founded on the belief that people should govern themselves. Now, we cannot hesitate to stand squarely on the side of those who are reaching for their rights, knowing that their success will bring about a world that is more peaceful, more stable, and more just.

39 Comments leave one →
  1. Thain permalink
    May 19, 2011 12:17 pm

    Thanks for the links, I am watching it right now. I hope he gives us more than sound-bites.

  2. Tovah permalink
    May 19, 2011 12:24 pm

    I’m watching too.

    I agree, there better be some substance, not just empty rhetoric. He needs to do something bold, take a risk.

  3. stacyx permalink*
    May 19, 2011 12:28 pm

    Obama just listed countries where people are seeking reform and didn’t mention Bahrain.

    Does he really think we’re all stupid? How can anyone take this seriously if he doesn’t address how our allies are treating their people?

  4. stacyx permalink*
    May 19, 2011 12:34 pm

    I don’t think this administration gets it. If they would try to be more of an honest broker in the region then there would be improvement in how the US is viewed in the Arab world.

    He’s talking right now about how the US needs a new approach because of the change taking place across the region but yet those are just words- where is the actual change in approach? We’ve dug in our heels continuing to support dictators in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, etc. while condemning dictators in countries we don’t like and we refuse to pressure Israel out of fear of the I-Lobby.

    We actually have some leverage with Bahrain- we don’t have to call for the end of the royal family/dictatorship there but we should speak out forcefully against the abuses. Instead, yesterday, the state dept. lauded Bahrain for all their reforms!
    That’s not change I can believe in.

  5. stacyx permalink*
    May 19, 2011 12:41 pm

    Ok, he finally mentions Bahrain and got applause.

  6. Thain permalink
    May 19, 2011 12:46 pm

    I haven’t heard the word “Palestinians” yet, have you?

  7. Thain permalink
    May 19, 2011 12:51 pm

    Ok, he just mentioned them saying Palestinians left negotiations.

  8. Steve permalink
    May 19, 2011 12:51 pm

    He’s on mideast peace right now…

  9. May 19, 2011 12:58 pm

    Ok, I must humbly apologize- he DID mention 1967 borders based on the advance copy of the speech above:

    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. The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their potential, in a sovereign and contiguous state…

    Of course the sticking point is “mutually agreed swaps…”

  10. Steve permalink
    May 19, 2011 1:07 pm

    From Twitter: Aaron David Miller notes Obama border comments “a day before a meeting w/the Israeli Prime Minister will be viewed in negative terms”

    Negative terms? Good lord, the speech isn’t even over and already the Lobby is pissed off the POTUS dared to mention 1967 borders? It all goes back to what Stacy said in her last post – basically the Israel Firsters don’t want Israel to be asked to do ANYTHING.

    What the heck do they think “land swaps” mean? Sheesh. It means large settlements will stay in place.

    Obama did not mention Jerusalem so the I-Firsters should be happy. It’s really annoying how people in THIS country expect Obama to just kiss Bibi’s backside as if that in itself will result in peace.

    • discourseincsharpminor permalink
      May 19, 2011 2:56 pm

      Well, heaven forbit he upset Netanyahu. He’s been such a sweet, good- natured fellow up until this mention of the dreaded 1967 borders.😉 Bibi’s made it pretty clear that his two-state solution is more like a one-state sloution, except that he hasn’t figured out what to do with all those extra people yet.Any agreement that would leave Palestinians with enough space to have an economy that wouldn’t be dependant to on Israel – a completely independant Palestine – is unacceptable for him. The US has been saying two-state solution and, for the most part, we’ve meant it. Netanyahu was never going to be happy with us on this trip. He’s coming here to tell us how bad we’re treating Israel. A reiteration of what has long been our stance during a speech on Mid-East policy shouldn’t come as a surprise.

  11. stacyx permalink*
    May 19, 2011 1:18 pm

    I’m glad he mentioned 1967 borders but there was nothing in that speech that tells me anything I didn’t already know about this admin. foreign policy. It also tells me nothing about what Washington plans to do about restarting talks. It was lofty-sounding and it discussed the economic aid and development that will be going to key states including Egypt, Tunisia, Jordan, etc. But I don’t see any big change in our foreign policy that indicates we have to readjust our priorities or policies in light of the changes resulting from the Arab Spring.

    He really made sweeping negative generalizations about the Palestinians and arguably misrepresented many of them. The PA recognized Israel’s right to exist and many Palestinians have turned to nonviolence- and yet Obama seems to regard that as “delegitimization” of Israel. Once again this administration reinforces it doesn’t know what an honest broker is.

    This admin. doesn’t seem to understand that you can’t demand people renounce violence and then when many of them do, turn around and use a brand-spanking new term (delegitimization) to describe the peaceful movement in order to give you an excuse to not give them credit for doing what you asked. That’s disingenuous. I wish the Palestinians would address this issue of how the US govt has essentially been doing this in order to not have to stand up for the rights of peaceful Palestinian protesters.

    I love how when the Palestinians go to the UN it’s somehow wrong or based on hatred, but when the US or Israel goes to the UN, it’s absolutely correct and justified. Americans may not care about that double standard, but you can be damn sure the Arab world does.

  12. Thain permalink
    May 19, 2011 1:24 pm

    There was nothing in the speech that is new. Just empty rhetoric. As for I-P he sounds a lot like Bush in many ways. He totally insults the Palestinians and gives Israel a big pass as though they’ve done nothing wrong despite the fact that they are the ones violating international law. Everyone has a right to go to the UN except the Palestinians. When Israel violates international law and refuses to cease doing it, the Palestinians should just suck it up. Great policy, really.

    Did it ever occur to the rocket scientists in this administration that the reason the Palestinians are trying to use the UN and world opinion is precisely BECAUSE the US refuses to be an honest broker?

    Obama is a loser and a sell-out.

    • May 19, 2011 1:47 pm

      Yes, he made no distinction between peaceful palestinians, who are the majority and Palestinians who use violence, who are in the minority. It seems to be part of US policy to slap the Palestinians around as frequently as possible. He totally ignored the Palestinian peace movement, including the murder of unarmed protesters during the Nakba commemoration the other day. Our entire Mideast foreign policy can be summarized as follows: don’t offend Israel.

      The fact that Palestinians are being thrown off their land, their houses bulldozed, their natural resources stolen, doesn’t matter, as far as we’re concerned, they are the problem. Perhaps it’s the Israelis who are delegitimizing the Palestinians instead of the other way around. After all, what is Mahmoud Abbas doing that violates international law? He’s abided by the road map, it’s the Israelis who have not abided by prior agreements.

      This sort of glaring double standard and refusal to be an honest broker will simply fuel radicalism in the region.

  13. May 19, 2011 2:22 pm

    Bibi timed an announcement of two new illegal settlement projects in East Jerusalem for today – he announced it today because of Obama’s speech- you know, to stick it to the president because apparently Bibi is more popular than Obama is:

    http://mitchellplitnick.com/2011/05/19/bibi-insults-obama-again-before-he-even-gets-here/

    So in light of this, Israel and their knee-jerk, unquestioning supporters still claim that it’s the Obama admin. that is the problem, that has offended Israel? Please.

    • discourseincsharpminor permalink
      May 19, 2011 3:04 pm

      Part of me thinks that the only way we could ever please Netanyahu and Co. would be to saturation bomb the Palestinians into the Stone Age. Anything less than open hostily and armed agression toward them seems to offend the delicate sensiblities of Israel’s present governent.

  14. Carolyn-Rodham permalink
    May 19, 2011 3:13 pm

    I’m going to give the President a thumbs up for two reasons;

    1) For this statement: “I count on Hillary every day, and I believe that she will go down as of the finest Secretaries of State in our nation’s history.”
    2) For linking the I-P issue to the Arab spring AGAINST the advice of Dennis Ross and BUCKING Netanyahu and AIPAC. Frankly, I think you guys are being a little too critical and unrealistic about the limits of what he could say today. I thought he was surprisingly blunt about the “frustration” of the international community about the lack of progress; endorsed the pre-1967 borders; said clearly rhe status quo is unsustainable and Israel must make concessions; etc. He may not have gone as far as some of us might have hoped, but I think he showed a willingness to buck AIPAC, sacrifice potential donors, and jeopardize the Jewish vote in 2012 (I think he’ll get the usual 70% of that vote anyway), to do the right thing.
    I say Bravo, Mr President!

    And Netanyahu looks mighty small, not to say woefully hypocrotical, to punctuate Obama’s speech with an announcement about more
    settlements — as if it wasn’t already transparently clear that he has no intention of engaging in serious negotiations. Your funeral, Bibi.

    • Thain permalink
      May 19, 2011 5:39 pm

      @Carolyn- Ok, I want a divorce😉

      You read this didn’t you:

      https://secretaryclinton.wordpress.com/2011/05/19/ot-timing-is-everything-and-why-nothing-ever-changes-in-mideast-peace/

      The ONLY reason this administration and every other administration can’t do what is necessary and right is because of fear of the Jewish vote and that is RIDICULOUS.

      As stacy said there is nothing radical about 1967 borders- that was part of the Bush-sponsored Road Map. Hillary has frequently referenced 1967 borders with land swaps (ie. letting Israel keep huge swaths of land) over the past two and a half years.

      Obama simply mentioned the settlements in passing, while pissing all over the Palestinians legal rights. Also, why is the liberal narrative about Israel and Palestine always something along the lines of “Israelis are victims of violence and Palestinians are just humiliated”- hello? More Palestinians are killed every year than Israelis! We act like Israelis are the only one with security concerns and yet just the other day a dozen unarmed Palestinians were killed. Apparently the right to peaceful protest, according to Obama, is only afforded to Syrians, Libyans and Iranians and is not afforded to Palestinians since he NEVER mentioned that but rather implied that all Palestinians use violence. It’s enraging, frankly.

      When has this administration EVER complimented the Palestinians who have turned their back on violence and who use nonviolent civil disobedience? NEVER. Rather than giving them credit for doing what we’ve been demanding of them for decades, Hillary, Obama, Congress, the media refer to it not as nonviolent resistance but “delegitimization” of Israel. WTF?

      And since when is going to the UN symbolic? It was good enough for the Israelis when they wanted a state. It was good enough for us when we want to bomb the crap out of someone or when we want to sanction someone but the Palestinians? Nah. When THEIR legal rights are violated we claim they have no right to go to the UN for redress.

      It’s insulting.

      • Carolyn-Rodham permalink
        May 19, 2011 7:48 pm

        Aw shucks, Thain – we hadn’t even consummated the marriage 😉

        According to the NY Times, Bush actually said “it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949,” another way of describing the 1967 boundaries.

        Bronner says that Obama’s endorsement of using the 1967 boundaries as the baseline for a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute was “the first by an American president.” He goes on to say, ” Dore Gold, a former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations and a confidant of Mr. Netanyahu’s, lamented by telephone that Mr. Obama’s speech was ‘a radical shift in United States policy towards Israel’ (…) Yossi Beilin , a longtime peace negotiator for Israel and former government minister who is now in private business, said by telephone that what Mr. Obama said was a ‘historic precedent.’ He said that President Bush had spoken about ending the occupation that began in 1967, but that Mr. Obama’s formulation suggested an equal exchange of territory in a final deal.”

        The fact that Obama’s speech got such a chilly response from Bibi (“ [I expected] to hear a reaffirmation from President Obama of American commitments made to Israel in 2004 which were overwhelmingly supported by both Houses of Congress”) can only be a good thing. And far from feeling condescended to, the Palestinians expressed their appreciation for Obama’s support and are convening an urgent meeting, with the implication being they will be talking about how to press forward with this unexpected new advantage.

        I think you guys are way too gloomy on this, but time will tell.

        • May 19, 2011 8:04 pm

          http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3695298,00.html

          The tenets of the plan were first outlined by US President George W. Bush, who called for an independent Palestinian state living side by side with Israel in peace: “The Road Map represents a starting point toward achieving the vision of two states, a secure State of Israel and a viable, peaceful, democratic Palestine. It is the framework for progress towards lasting peace and security in the Middle East…”

          Bush allotted the Road Map three years, meant to help the new Palestinian state to stabilize its governmental systems. At the end of three years, a permanent agreement based on the 1967 borders was to be signed between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, effectively forming Palestine across the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

          What really matters is what is going on behind the scenes and according to the Palestine Papers the Obama admin. walked back from the 1967 borders in private:

          http://english.aljazeera.net/palestinepapers/2011/01/201112411450358613.html

          Also, all this handwringing by the status quo lobby and the likes of Bronner is sort of laughable- even if negotiations START at 1967 there is no way they will be the final borders, they are just a place to start negotiations. Don’t get me wrong, I think they should START there but I actually think they should be the final borders.

          Whenever I hear Abbas get all excited about what Obama says, I recall in the Palestine Papers it is usually followed by a huge let-down. His reaction is sort of sad- it reminds me of a kid who just wants to be loved. The poor guy just wants to believe more than anything that Barack Obama was going to liberate the Palestinians.

          Have you read any reactions from Palestinians OTHER than Abbas on Twitter, the blogs etc? They are quite as giddy as Abbas is.

          I hope you are right Carolyn but honestly, I think we have become so used to the propaganda and the total power imbalance that any little scrap that gets tossed out suddenly becomes Prime Rib when it’s really just, well, crumbs.

  15. stacyx permalink*
    May 19, 2011 3:44 pm

    @Carolyn – Sorry, but I just totally disagree.

    1967 borders as a starting point has been the longstanding view of not just this admin but past admins so I don’t find it particularly courageous that he mentioned it. In fact, if anything, the fact people are willing to heap praise on him for it shows just how far the bar has been lowered.

    He repeated things he’s said many times before but he gave no indication that he was going to invest any personal political capital in it. At this point the peace process is dead and he gave no indication of how he planned to move forward.

    Mentioning 1967 isn’t bucking the lobby if settlements continue and there’s no concrete action following up the words. In fact, he is one of the people enabling the status quo to continue- all the while condemning the status quo. It was a big gift to the lobby not to mention Jerusalem and to not condemn settlements, all the while admonishing the Palestinians for everything under the sun.

    I also found his comments about the Palestinians to be condescending and insulting.

  16. Pilgrim permalink
    May 19, 2011 4:02 pm

    I am in complete agreement with SCB, also “Thain”

    I am very glad that SCB raises a voice for fairness toward Palestinians. What those people endure is heartbreaking.

  17. RANDRAND permalink
    May 19, 2011 4:25 pm

    The “birdy wing-pickers-as-they-go” text bloggers are a scream! There is no conceptual cohesiveness to their one-line perceptions-and to analyze this massive text takes hours of inspection–which these “ADDS children” are not geared for. First, if you know historically what THE MARSHALL PLAN was after WORLD WAR II: it literally reconfigured the economic landscape to make the countries devastated by war on a traction to be producing nations-and asserted The United States as main creditor in the world. Nice thought, President Obama-but we have no money to lend that will up-tick the production, and even when we see results of such a world policy-it will mean few jobs for us in the country here. We cannot loan-what we do not have. The faith-in-debt quota is about to topple-and jobs here may become close to extinct. This wishful thinking is not going to make the staggering debt abate-and may take the cradle down with the tree! All great ideas about democracy in bloom, but the roots of the world economy are withering-and may, in fact, kill the dreams

  18. RANDRAND permalink
    May 19, 2011 4:37 pm

    AS FOR ISRAEL AND PALESTINE-WHAT A FREAM OF OPTIMISM WHERE LIONS LAY DOWN WITH LAMBS! Maybe in the Sunday bible class it looks good-but Israel is built on a war-footed industry economy, and The Palestine entourage of pseudo-organizations have proven time after time to be promise breakers and revert to terrorist tactics. Peace is not easily negotiated, and even more precariously implemented in this region. I would personally love to see peace in the region with two co-existing autonomous countries-but in reality-it has about a snowball’s chance in hell of real-time implementation-based on past history! Unless Barrack is wearing the SUPERMAN LOGO on his chest these days-it ain’t gonna be dictated through The United States anytime soon! Besides-to say the country will go from arament and war footed economy here, to productive peace-keeping economy and re-establish a full job base-is purely fictionalized dreamland stuff! NICE TALK ON A WARM SPRING AFTERNOON-WHILE WE ALL TAKE A WALK IN THE PARK-NOTHING MORE!

  19. RANDRAND permalink
    May 19, 2011 4:40 pm

    AS FOR ISRAEL AND PALESTINE-WHAT A”DREAM OF OPTIMISM WHERE LIONS LAY DOWN WITH LAMBS”! Maybe in the Sunday bible class it looks good-but Israel is built on a war-footed industry economy, and The Palestine entourage of pseudo-organizations have proven time after time to be promise breakers and revert to terrorist tactics. Peace is not easily negotiated, and even more precariously implemented in this region. I would personally love to see peace in the region with two co-existing autonomous countries-but in reality-it has about a snowball’s chance in hell of real-time implementation-based on past history! Unless Barrack is wearing the SUPERMAN LOGO on his chest these days-it ain’t gonna be dictated through The United States anytime soon! Besides-to say the country will go from armament and war footed economy here, to productive peace-keeping economy and re-establish a full job base for our unemployed masses-is purely fictionalized dreamland stuff! NICE TALK ON A WARM SPRING AFTERNOON-WHILE WE ALL TAKE A WALK IN THE PARK-NOTHING MORE!

  20. stacyx permalink*
    May 19, 2011 5:02 pm

    Surprise, surprise- our great ally Israel has already responded to Obama’s speech with his usual helpful, grateful response- no, no, no, no:

    http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/after-obama-speech-netanyahu-rejects-withdrawal-to-indefensible-1967-borders-1.362869

    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday Israel would object to any withdrawal to “indefensible” borders, adding he expected Washington to allow it to keep major settlement blocs in any peace deal.

    In a statement after President Barack Obama’s speech outlining Middle East strategy, Netanyahu said before heading to Washington that “the viability of a Palestinian state cannot come at the expense of Israel’s existence”.

    I’ll say it again- it is embarrassing to watch this administration pander to a foreign leader that treats them like they are his cleaning staff.

    This is why I have no patience for any of our govt leaders on this issue- for decades we have been enabling the settlement enterprise, refusing to use the diplomatic, economic tools at our disposal to stop the settlements because YES, if we wanted we could stop them, and now we are painted into a corner. We are knowingly allowing Israel to subvert the process and then we blame everything on the Palestinians. And we wonder why the Arab world resents both the US and Israel.

    Bibi is demanding that Israel be rewarded for violating international law and telling the US to go screw. The arrogance is incredible. Our policy is that the settlements should stop but then we tell Israel that we will ensure they get to keep most of the settlements- gee, I wonder why Israel doesn’t stop building them. Hmmmm….

    The purpose of the settlements is to change the facts on the ground in such a way that when and if a two state solution is seriously discussed, Israel will be able to not only keep the land it illegally appropriated but it will prevent a Palestinian state with contiguous borders. The settlements have been built strategically so that the Occupied Territories looks like swiss cheese-dotted with settlements in between Arab villages. Not only will Israel demand the largest settlements remain intact but they have built roads and infrastructure connecting them- in other words, they are quite permanent. Various Israeli leaders have said that the purpose of said settlements was to ensure no real Palestinian state ever emerged. In addition, the settlements have been placed in areas where Israel is sure to walk away with the best access to the Palestinians’ natural resources- water, gas, etc.

    So why have we allowed this? Because 2% of the population seems to have 99% of the say in our policies towards Israel. They have hijacked the discussion and the political process.

  21. May 19, 2011 5:50 pm

    Interesting- not only does the Israeli govt bar certain academics and activists from entering Israel based on viewpoint but they also bar these individuals from entering the Palestinian territories.

    http://mondoweiss.net/2011/05/shifting-the-occupation-to-the-academic-battlefield-south-african-academic-na%E2%80%99eem-jeenah-detained-and-deported.html#more-43082

    These people are not security threats.

    I believe that totally controlling freedom of movement of an occupied population is a violation of international law.

    Also, the State dept. confirmed Israel arrested a Palestinian-American doctor (with US citizenship) but they would prefer not to comment on it. Of course they would.

  22. May 19, 2011 8:14 pm

    One more thing, from Carolyn’s comment above quoting Bronner (*sigh*)

    “but that Mr. Obama’s formulation suggested an equal exchange of territory in a final deal…”

    Where is there anything about an equal exchange of territory- it’s “mutually agreed upon swaps”- that’s not the same as an equal exchange of territory. And again, in the Palestine Papers the Obama admin. walked back on 1967 borders, which upset the Palestinians because it was inconsistent with the Roadmap.

    Not to sound paranoid but the lobby is making a big deal about this to try to bolster support for when Bibi goes in to meet with Obama and Clinton tomorrow and according to haaretz “demands a retraction of the part of the speech about 1967 borders.”

    • Carolyn-Rodham permalink
      May 19, 2011 8:48 pm

      (WASHINGTON) — Congressman Allen West (FL-22) released this statement today:

      “Today’s endorsement by President Barack Obama of the creation of a Hamas-led Palestinian state based on the pre-1967 borders, signals the most egregious foreign policy decision his administration has made to date, and could be the beginning of the end as we know it for the Jewish state.

      From the moment the modern day state of Israel declared statehood in 1948, to the end of the 1967 Six Day War, Jews were forbidden access to their holiest site, the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City, controlled by Jordan’s Arab army.

      The pre-1967 borders endorsed by President Obama would deny millions of the world’s Jews access to their holiest site and force Israel to return the strategically important Golan Heights to Syria, a known state-sponsor of terrorism.

      Resorting to the pre-1967 borders would mean a full withdrawal by the Israelis from the West Bank and the Jewish neighborhoods of East Jerusalem. Make no mistake, there has always been a Nation of Israel and Jerusalem has been and must always be recognized as its rightful capital.”

      Some sort of distinction is being made between 1967 borders and pre-1967 (1947 armistice) borders. I’m honestly not sure which Obama meant but everyone’s reacting like he said (and meant) pre-1967.

  23. May 19, 2011 8:44 pm

    Ok, Carolyn is right and I’m wrong:

    http://thecable.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2011/05/19/obama_alters_us_policy_tells_israel_to_start_with_67_borders

    That’s ok, I’m frequently wrong🙂

    • Pilgrim permalink
      May 19, 2011 9:11 pm

      but more frequently right

      • Carolyn-Rodham permalink
        May 19, 2011 10:09 pm

        So infrequently wrong that I’m framing this!🙂

  24. Thain permalink
    May 19, 2011 9:25 pm

    I’m still not seeing it- Bush referenced two states based on 1967 borders, so has the Quartet and the EU.

    Here Justin Elliot says the sane thing- that the 1967 line in the speech sounds a lot like what Bush said:

    http://www.salon.com/news/politics/war_room/2011/05/19/obama_middle_east_speech/index.html

    Btw- I’m glad Obama said what he did but I’m not buying into all the hand-wringing- I think it’s contrived and meant to get Obama to pull back.

    Of course if no negotiations take place soon none of what he said matters. Talk is cheap what matters is what the US does.

  25. May 20, 2011 7:01 am

    I’m so confused:

    http://thinkprogress.org/2011/05/19/right-wing-freak-out-67-borders/

    Today in his speech on the Middle East and North Africa, President Obama said that “a lasting peace” between the Israelis and the Palestinians “will involve two states” and that “the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines.”

    For some reason, the Beltway media is treating this as some kind of breaking news. Foreign Policy reported that Obama is altering U.S. policy, and the Washington Post claimed that the Obama administration referred to the 1967 border as part of the solution “[f]or the first time.”

    [snip]

    But Obama’s pronouncement today isn’t new. Even President Bush in 2005 endorsed a two-state solution with negotiations based on the post-1949 Armistice, pre-1967 borders:

    Any final status agreement must be reached between the two parties, and changes to the 1949 Armistice lines must be mutually agreed to. A viable two-state solution must ensure contiguity of the West Bank, and a state of scattered territories will not work.

    And the 1967 borders were the basis for the two future states in negotiations during the Clinton administration. Then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, now Israel’s Defense Minister, signed a document “understanding that the negotiations on the Permanent Status will lead to the implementation of Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338.” UNSR 242, passed in November 1967, calls for the “withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict.”

    NBC’s Chuck Todd noticed all the commotion, tweeting, “Surprised at venom re: 1967 lines. Has been part of the proposed solution for years.”

    BTW, I’m still not buying into all the post-speech hysteria- I think people are trying to help Bibi out by making it sound like Obama proposed some super-radical idea in his speech. I am glad Obama said what he did, but the hysterical reaction to it from the right, from the Lobby and from some members of Congress just illustrates that despite what they say publicly, they don’t support a viable two state solution. By referencing the 1967 borders that puts East Jerusalem into play, which Bibi and the Lobby refuse to discuss.

    Who knows, if the media will allow an honest debate maybe people will start to realize how the status quo lobby works to undermine peace. But I doubt it.

  26. Steve permalink
    May 20, 2011 7:56 am

    Gee this didn’t take long:

    http://www.wiesenthal.com/site/apps/nlnet/content2.aspx?c=lsKWLbPJLnF&b=4441467&ct=10711363

    The far-right Wiesenthal center has equated Obama’s remarks with being told to go to Auschwitz. Because you know, whenever anyone asks Israel to do anything they don’t want to do, they always bring up the Holocaust. As someone who had family members in Auschwitz, I find that offensive (and yes, I know Wiesenthal’s history but it’s not an excuse to be a rabid anti-Arab apologist for ethnic cleansing and land theft).

    • discourseincsharpminor permalink
      May 20, 2011 8:59 am

      Wow! So now if you support a viable, seemingly reasonable plan for a two-state solution you aren’t merely and anti-Semetic lout, you are now equated to to a Nazi official ordering the senseless slaughter of innocent people in one of the more infamous locations in modern history. So, any peace plan which includes Palestinian interests can be equated to ordering people to their deaths. If it were any other issue this would seem irrational. As it is, this is very offesive, but I’m sad to say I’m not all that stunned. I think thats actually a bigger part of the US disconnect with reality over the Israeli/Palestinian peace process. All of the hyperbole that has been flung around for decades is no longer the realm of pundits and those will a clear agenda tilting them to one side, it has become the dialogue itself. If we can’t cut the nonsense about this, another generation will grow up watching these two people threaten to distroy each other.

  27. Carolyn-Rodham permalink
    May 20, 2011 9:30 am

    ” UNSR 242, passed in November 1967, calls for the “withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict.”

    Herein lies thr rub, because there was MAJOR and protracted debate — never fully resolved — over those words “from territorties,” with some interpreting it to mean “from SOME (or most, but not all) the territories” while orhers — including those who drafted the resolution interpreting it to mean “ALL the territories” — all of the West Bank, Gaza, the Golan Heights, East Jerusalem, ALL of it. I don’t need to tell you how Israel has chosen to interpret the resolution these many decades. I’ll have to reread Obama’s speech more carefully but it seems clear from the reaction that Netanyahu friends believe — or want us to believe — Obama meant give it ALL back. I’m beginning to think you may be right, stacy, that this is a fear-mongering tactic on Israel’s part, to stir up outrage over Obama’s speech among US Jews. But its fun to watch them get their knickers all twisted anyway. And I don’t think it will fool the American public — or that fraction of it that gives a hoot about Israel or Palestine, anyway. I think people are getting tired of the endlessly nonproductive “peace process,” tired of watching Netanyahu hold his breath and turn purple until he gets what he wants, tired of blindly backing Israel policies that are increasingly not in our own national interest.

    So let those six wealthy AIPAC donors throw their dollars at Republican candidates. Maybe that will wake up US Jews (who have always vited overwhelmingly Democratic) that something is terribly, terribly rotten in the heart of Israel.

    • May 20, 2011 9:47 am

      Even Richard Haass of the Council on Foreign Relations tried to tell Joe Scarborough today on Morning Joe that the line about 1967 was significant but it was always understood to be the foundation of peace talks- unless ’67 borders were understood as the foundation, all one would be left with is pockets of non-contiguous palestinian territory.

      Micah reminded me last night that Israel and the I-Lobby had a fit when George Bush said the word “contiguous” in a speech. So what that tells us is that Israel and the status quo lobby don’t want two independent states- they want a Jewish state of Israel and a non-sovereign palestinian entity that is just little pockets of territory- not connected, not near vital natural resources, demilitarized etc. That will not create peace. In fact, it will bolster Hamas and Islamic groups and probably lead to war.

      As for UNSR 242 Israel is engaging in wishful thinking. Generally, interpretation of things like that is based on the words- if they had meant some territories they would have said that. I realize there is debate about it but the UN has been very clear about the illegality of taking land beyond the Green Line.

      What I find so incredible is Israel’s attitude is basically, “we ignore international law and ignore US policy and build settlements to change the facts on the ground, then we expect the US to reward us by allowing us to keep every single illegal settlement we’ve put in the OT.” That Bibi’s view has so much support in the U.S. (but not as much in Israel) just shows how the radical position has become mainstream.

      Perhaps Israel would be less inclined to continue to build new settlements in East Jerusalem, etc. if we told them “you can continue building settlements but know that you will be dismantling them as part of a peace agreement.” Otherwise, why would Israel stop? Bibi admitted on the plane to the U.S. yesterday that the settlements changed the facts on the ground and that he had every intention of demanding that obama accept that. In other words, we should reward Israel for decades of land theft. This is the main injustice- all this talk about how the Palestinians have done nothing for Israel or for peace, all the while Israel continues to take land that is under negotiation. How would Israel like it if the Palestinians did that? What if Palestinians brought tanks and guns and bulldozers into Jewish neighborhoods? They would be called terrorists and Israel would literally kill them. But when Israel does it, Obama condescendingly tells the Palestinians they have no right to go to the UN. Incredible.

  28. January 24, 2013 7:39 pm

    Obama and Hilliary would make a great team together.

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