I am writing this email to several friends of mine who I spoke with this morning about Obama's speech on Israeli-Palestinian relations. I am also sending this email to others who I think would be interested in the discussion.
Because the President rhetorically urges Israelis to make a strong effort for peace, my friends were very pleased since it presumably represents a step forward in US policy toward Israel. But actually, the speech was a step backward. A very critical issue for the Palestinians is that Israel is currently constructing settlements for Jews in Palestinian territories.
What is the President's position on this issue? He urged the Palestinians to return to the bargaining table even though Israel is going ahead with the construction. What does he advise Israel to do? Formerly he had advised Israel against infringing on Palestinian property. But he has clearly changed his mind. Instead, as Friday's New York Times states, "President Drops His Stance on a HALT to Israeli Settlements". Since this is no longer an expectation by the President, it is absolutely certain that Israel will not back off. How then can there be a peace settlement if Israel remains free to construct settlements on lands that don't belong to Israel!
Obama not only prefers the rhetorical approach. What he says and doesn't say in this instance is decidedly to the advantage of the Israeli government. So the speech doesn't deserve applause. Instead, President Obama signaled to the Israeli government that it can do what it pleases even though it violates the integrity and well being of the Palestinians.