2011-05-20

Obama's Middle East Speech

Jonathan Tobin was among the first to notice tones of neoconservatism in President Obama's speech yesterday:

The president says the United States opposes the use of violence and repression by dictators, supports universal rights including free speech and assembly, freedom of religion, equality of men and women, rule of law and right to choose our own leaders as well as political and economic reform. This is good policy. But wasn’t this the neoconservative policy of George W. Bush that the Democrats used to mock?

Tobin's Commentary colleague Peter Wehner put it more succinctly: "When Obama Became Bush (On Iraq)".

In just a few years, then, Iraq has, for Barack Obama, gone from a strategic disaster to something of a model for the region. His words sound very much like those of President Bush, who told the United Nations in 2003, “Iraq as a dictatorship has great power to destabilize the Middle East. Iraq as a democracy will have great power to inspire the Middle East.”

The fact that Barack Obama is now (belatedly) embracing the views of his predecessor is something to be grateful for. To have a liberal, Democratic president declare that Iraq shows “the promise of a multiethnic, multisectarian democracy” and is “poised to play a key role in the region” is a very good thing for our country and the wider Middle East. And it will help to heal the divisions caused by the war.

The ending of the speech was equally noteworthy - for very different reasons. Obama's call for Israel to withdraw to its 1967 borders brought an immediate "no" from Netanyahu:

Responding to President Barack Obama's major Mideast policy speech, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says that Israel will not be withdrawing to the 1967 borders as part of a peace deal with the Palestinians.

MK Danny Danon declared that Obama "adopted the phased plan of Yasser Arafat", meaning the destruction of Israel piece by piece. An associate of Netanyahu said Obama "does not understand the reality in the Middle East".

According to Debka,

By rejecting US President Barack Obama's proposal for Israel and its troops to pull back from the West Bank to behind the indefensible 1967 lines, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu lands in the company of eleven Middle East and North African rulers who spurned Washington's Middle East policy in the six months of the unfolding Arab uprising. Egypt's Hosni Mubarak was the only one to keep faith with Obama and he was pushed out for his pains.


Meanwhile, Marc Tracy at Tablet cites Ha'Aretz in favor of the 1967 solution - and gets pounded in the comments.

Enduring America has a wrapup.