Yesterday, I wrote that various circumstances, including the gearing up of his re-election campaign, and most of all the reconciliation deal that made Hamas a part of Israel’s ostensible partner-for-peace, made it likely that in his speech today on the Arab Spring, Obama would offer little more than bare, peace-liking rhetoric where the Israeli Palestinian conflict was concerned. This wasn’t just my opinion, this is what essentially everyone thought. If you listened in on yesterday’s backgrounder (as I did briefly), you would have thought there would be absolutely no real Israel news.
Over the past hour, the buzz has been, however, that Obama may be making major news on that front (only one day in advance of his hosting Prime Minister Netanyahu at the White House). Stay tuned.
1:05 And that’s that, folks. In sum? Very, very difficult to frame this as anything other than fundamentally pro-Israel. As I (and everyone else) predicted, reconciliation especially makes it exceedingly difficult to do much of anything differently. The real question is why did Obama expend 15 paragraphs and 1100 words on a whole heaping lot of not much? Anyway, thanks for following!
12:58 Anyway Obama said not much that was that new and mostly stuff that will please Bibi, including questioning reconciliation and calling for a demilitarized Palestinian state. The real question is why he took more than a dozen paragraphs and over one thousand words to say it all.
12:57 That was fun, our having technical difficulties during the Israel part of the speech.
12:43 Oh hey there’s a G-8 summit next week. Also people are very happy that he stood up for the Bahraini Shiites, and I agree with them.
12:41 My understanding of the ’67 comment is that while everyone has always known this would be the basis for a two-state solution (which even George W. Bush supported) and that Clinton basically said this in ’09, it’s the first time an American president has explicitly and publicly said it.
12:40 Rights for women. This part is for Hillary. Also for women. And men who don’t hate women.
12:39 Here is full text. Do people continue live-blogs once this is available?
12:38 Okay, back to speech in real-time. Stands up for bloggers! Yay!
12:36 Okay advance copy in. Highlights: “Israeli settlement activity continues. Palestinians have walked away from talks.” “Symbolic actions to isolate Israel at the United Nations in September won’t create an independent state. (My bold.) “But precisely because of our friendship, it is important that we tell the truth: the status quo is unsustainable, and Israel too must act boldly to advance a lasting peace.” “Ultimately, it is up to Israelis and Palestinians to take action. No peace can be imposed upon them, nor can endless delay make the problem go away. But what America and the international community can do is state frankly what everyone knows: a lasting peace will involve two states for two peoples.” “The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states. The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their potential, in a sovereign and contiguous state. “ (My bold.) Security guarantees for Israel. “In particular, the recent announcement of an agreement between Fatah and Hamas raises profound and legitimate questions for Israel – how can one negotiate with a party that has shown itself unwilling to recognize your right to exist.”
12:33 Hammering Iran’s “hypocrisy.”
12:32 President Assad has a choice: reform, or “get out of the way.” Strongest statement yet about regime change in Damascus. But doesn’t quite go there.
12:31 “We have stepped up our sanctions on the Syrian regime.”
12:29 This speech is reminiscent of George W. Bush second-term democracy above all other considerations policy. Which felt great to talk about but also led to the elections that brought Hamas to power. Still, Egypt provides a nice model the other way (so far).
12:28 Right to self-determination. Mentions Sanaa (Yemen), Baghdad (Iraq), Tehran (Iran), and Damascus (Syria).
12:28 First applause: “The United States opposes the use of violence and repression against the people of the region.”
12:28 A lot of hedging. We stand for this, but there are perils. We will do this, but also we will do that.
12:27 “We have a chance to show that America values the dignity of the street vendor in Tunisia more than the power of the dictator. Advocates “change that advances self-determination and opportunity.”
12:25 But can’t be interests alone, or else people in the region will suspect (correctly) that that’s what we’re up to.
12:24 “For decades, the United States has pursued a set of core interests in the region.” These include “standing up for Israel’s security and pursuing Arab-Israeli piece.” Of it all, “we will continue to do this.” And: “We will not tolerate aggression across borders, and we will keep our commitments to friends and partners.”
12:22 Includes Damascus as part of litany of Arab uprisings.
12:18 Ended combat mission in Iraq, made progress in Afghanistan, and, oh yeah, killed Osama.
12:14 “A new chapter in American diplomacy.”
12:13 Hillary offered standard boilerplate. Here comes the president.
12:09 Hillary first.
12:08 Two-minute warning. “The program will begin.” Presumably with an overture.
12:07 President is apparently on his way. He has a good chance at being only half-an-hour late! #fail
12:02 #whyobamaslate is now a hashtag on Twitter. Because this is actually kind of ridiculous.
11:58 Israel “has nothing to worry about,” according to senior American diplomat. Also, Obama apparently is still at the White House, though he is giving the speech at State, several blocks away. What is this, The West Wing? Are they rewriting the speech in the last 20 minutes?
11:53 In an email (h/t Ben Smith) Josh Block, a former AIPAC spokesperson, writes that Obama will announce Israel will get to keep much of the West Bank but will also cite 1948 armistice lines (as opposed to 1967 borders). He is very unhappy, writing, “It makes no sense to do this now, with Hamas-Fatah “unity government”, and a PA leadership refusing to even be in the same room as Israel, despite Israel’s repeated calls to negotiate, and substantive offers again and again. We are rewarding bad behavior, and helping Abbas climb farther up a tree he cannot come down.”
11:52 Also usually by this point advance copies of the speech would have started to trickle out. Hasn’t happened yet. Very odd.
11:49 Speech, scheduled for 11:40, hasn’t started yet. C’mon! I got places to be! (Recall that this is a speech geared toward the Arab world, so while over here it is late-morning, over there it is nearing primetime.