I don't know how many hours went into U.S. President Barack Obama's speech and how many people worked on it, but the last word is always the president's. His words sent hearts beating and angered the wicked, as might have been guessed from the timing of the applause in Cairo University's opulent auditorium.
Despite all the work, a number of things particularly jarred the ear. For example, the juxtaposition of the Holocaust and the suffering of the Palestinian people. After all, some 20 years before the Holocaust the Palestinians already imposed indiscriminate terror on Jews in the Land of Israel.
Moreover, Obama forgot to mention that the Palestinians refused to accept the partition of the land into two states for two peoples, as approved by the United Nations General Assembly on November 29, 1947. Instead, the day after the resolution was passed, Palestinians opened fire on two Egged buses and started a war until the British departed. On the day Israel declared its independence, the armies of seven Arab states invaded, but were defeated at the price of 6,000 dead. Their refugees were a direct result of their obduracy and hatred of Israel. From the UN resolution to the Oslo Accords and the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, the Palestinians have never, as Abba Eban said, missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity for peace.
Obama did the right thing when he stressed to French President Nicolas Sarkozy that the Palestinians, too, need to stop the violence and terror. Thanks, really.
His 50-minute speech was neither for us nor against us, but was intended to neutralize the hostility of the Arabs and militant Islam toward the United States and the entire free world. Compared to George W. Bush, Obama looks like Gulliver in the Land of the Liliputians. With the entire world watching, he is shaping a different America. Not an America that operates on its own but one that will restore its power by forming an international coalition of the sane. The change is fundamental, not just a change in form.
In his speeches to the Islamic world and the Europeans, Obama made it clear that the United States does not intend to be the village idiot. He is positioning himself as the head of a global movement including the world's democracies and moderate Islam. The speeches and meetings are part of an effort to find a new recipe for solving problems using alliances and understandings with the sane.
The American people admire Obama. They do not see him as a single-issue president, but as a leader who must also deal with the economic crisis - the collapse of companies, the danger of unemployment, problems with health insurance. He has already made a historic move in selecting a Hispanic woman to serve as a Supreme Court justice. Who knows, perhaps the day will come when a Hispanic becomes U.S. president. In any case, the current president is juggling five balls in the air simultaneously.
Anyone who asks, as usual, whether the new president is good or bad for the Jews will hear that there is no change in the general attitude toward Israel, but rather in the zeal for ending the conflict. Obama's United States does not want to have to choose between us and the Arabs. America's friendship for Israel still crosses party borders in Congress.
"The United States has not changed its attitude toward Israel, but rather the urgency with which it sees the need for a peace agreement between Israel and its neighbors," says Danny Halperin, an expert on the United States. And a wagging finger is warning the extremists that anyone who interferes with peace will pay the price. This includes Israel's extreme right, which continues to cling to the insane idea that Israel's salvation lies only in holding on to the territories and outposts.
No one will deny, for example, that life will be better after Hezbollah's defeat in this week's elections. The change Obama is proposing is not to Israel's detriment; rather, it seeks a swift agreement between us and the Palestinians. This approach demands that Hamas recognize Israel and stop terror; it also demands that we stop building in the territories, take down the unapproved outposts and prepare for a plan of two states for two peoples.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has no alternative but to adapt to the new reality, lest anyone who thwarts Obama's "Yes we can" be struck by lightning.
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