The overwhelming mood in the air is dismissive of Obama’s 55 minute speech in Cairo yesterday. While the words may have been a far cry from some of the rhetoric and fear-mongering of the decade past, it really will be actions that count at the end of the day. And unfortunately, that still is a pipe dream. Presenting the links of this morning on the Cairo speech:
Firstly, no wonder the Israelis haven’t lost their cool yet. According to the New York Daily News:
The White House tried to ease Israeli concerns over President Obama’s fence-mending speech Thursday to the Muslim world, insisting he remains loyal to the strong U.S. relationship with the Jewish state.
In an e-mail sent to some Jewish groups and the U.S.-based lobby for Israel, the White House insisted Obama’s outreach to the mainstream Muslim majority is no threat to relations with its key Mideast ally.
“The President’s commitment to Israel’s security is as firm as ever, which he has emphasized many times,” the e-mail said.
There was also a late afternoon secret White House conference call with some Jewish leaders Wednesday to quell any concerns that the Cairo University speech signals a souring of U.S.-Israeli relations.
Helena Cobban interviewed Hamas’ Khaled Meshaal - his take on the Cairo speech:
We want to see practical steps by the United States such as ending Israel’s settlement activity, putting an end to Israel’s confiscation of Palestinian and its campaign to Judaize Jerusalem; and end to its demolitions of Palestinian homes; and the removal of the 600 checkpoints that are stifling normal life in the West Bank.
Rather than sweet words from President Obama on democratization, we’d rather see the United States start to respect the results of democratic elections that have already been held. And rather than talk about democratization and human rights in the Arab world, we’d rather see the removal of General Dayton, who’s building a police state there in the West Bank.
There was no mention – during or after his kindly excoriation of Iran – of Israel’s estimated 264 nuclear warheads. He admonished the Palestinians for their violence – for “shooting rockets at sleeping children or blowing up old women in a bus”. But there was no mention of Israel’s violence in Gaza, just of the “continuing humanitarian crisis in Gaza”. Nor was there a mention of Israel’s bombing of civilians in Lebanon, of its repeated invasions of Lebanon (17,500 dead in the 1982 invasion alone). Obama told Muslims not to live in the past, but cut the Israelis out of this. The Holocaust loomed out of his speech and he reminded us that he was going to the site of the Buchenwald concentration camp today.
For a man who is sending thousands more US troops into Afghanistan – a certain disaster-to-come in the eyes of Arabs and Westerners – there was something brazen about all this. When he talked about the debt that all Westerners owed to Islam – the “light of learning” in Andalusia, algebra, the magnetic compass, religious tolerance, it was like a cat being gently stroked before a visit to the vet. And the vet, of course, lectured the Muslims on the dangers of extremism, on “cycles of suspicion and discord” – even if America and Islam shared “common principles” which turned out to be “justice, progress and the dignity of all human beings”.