“Palestinians welcome Barack Obama’s speech,” said the Palestinian daily Al-Quds in an editorial. President Obama’s much-anticipated address to the Muslim world in Cairo last week showed an excellent grasp of “the historical facts and the realities on the ground” in the occupied territories. It was significant that Obama did not use the word “terrorism” once. Instead, he spoke of “extremist violence.” The word choice underscores his “determination to bypass all those foregone conclusions and misjudgments the West and the Muslim world have had about each other.” Obama spoke movingly, “from the heart,” about Palestinian suffering, acknowledging that we endure “the daily humiliations’’ of Israeli occupation, and that our daily lives have become “intolerable.’’ He called for an end to settlement building and the establishment of a Palestinian state. It was a good start. The next step, of course, is for Obama to put pressure on the right-wing Israeli government, which is overtly “hostile to the peace process.”
Dream on, said the Palestinian daily Filastin. Obama will never pressure the Israelis in a meaningful way. Indeed, his remarks were “fully biased toward Israel.” He called on Palestinians to give up the resistance, but he did not call on Israelis to stop massacring us. He talked at length about “the so-called Holocaust, but failed to speak about the crimes of the occupation.” It was another manifestation of the American insistence “that what happened to the Jews should be remembered with all its exaggerations at all times and in all places,” while the Palestinians are blamed for their own victimization. Worst of all, it’s obvious that Obama does not intend to support the right of Palestinian refugees and their descendents to return to their ancestral homes in Israel. “This became clear when he spoke about the Jewish nature of the state.”
Give Obama a chance, said Muhammad Yaghi in the Palestinian daily Al-Ayyam. If he can “transform his beautiful talk into a working plan of action,” we may be looking at a new era of peace. Of course, there are concrete things he must accomplish in the next year: Make Israel stop building Jewish settlements on Palestinian land, and “force Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to negotiate.”
Netanyahu has a big problem, said Attila Somfalvi in Israel’s Yedioth Ahronoth. Obama was clear that while the U.S. will continue to be Israel’s staunch ally, it will no longer allow Israel to get away with such “trickery” as the “gradual annexation” of the territories by building settlements. So the Israeli prime minister must choose between “a collision course with the world’s greatest power, which will lead to Israel’s isolation and ostracism in the international arena, or a dramatic policy shift.” Netanyahu has never endorsed the creation of a Palestinian state. Now he might actually have to do so. Obama’s speech “was meant to make it clear to Netanyahu who the master of the house is.” Will Netanyahu come to heel?