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Obama and the Middle East

I finally had an opportunity to watch Obama’s speech.  I thought his sentiments regarding the recent upheaval in the Middle East were strong, however the speech failed to name Saudi Arabia as he discussed friends that allow their people no political voice and did not mention Hamas when discussing that America will have to accept democratic decisions that we disagree with.  We will have to wait to see if this part of the speech is rhetoric or real.

Of course the more interesting part of the speech was Obama’s viewpoints on Israel and Palestine and peace.  He essentially said what most who study the issue know, but what makes the speech significant is that by saying what we all know, he is signaling a new, tougher American approach to the issue.  Benjamin Netanyahu is angry with the remarks, and he will get a chance to complain as he is visiting the White House today.  Next up is Bibi’s speech to Congress.

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One Response

  1. I think that many of us in the field of Middle East studies are a disappointed that the President did not explicitly address the security of the Palestinians or welcome the notion of UN recognition of Palestinian statehood in September. However, what we ought to recognize is that this President is baby-stepping into a foreign policy territory that his predecssors have tip-toed around. His recent speech, and subsequent disagreements with Prime Minister Netanyahu and long-time White House Middle East advisor, Dennis Ross, effectively demonstrate that the U.S. position regarding the peace process is not so rigidly one-sided any longer. Again, these are delicate approaches, but the President also has a relatively broader profile of dialogue with the Palestinians since the morning of his inauguration. Of course, actions will speak louder than words, but these recent developments show us a President who is becoming more confident in his role as the final decision maker of U.S. foreign policy–despite what his counterparts in the region, and in his White House, might otherwise wish.

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