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Obama Insinuates Internationalization of Jerusalem
Obama Insinuates Internationalization of Jerusalem
United States President Barack Obama referred to Jerusalem as the "secure and lasting home for Jews and Christians and Muslims" in an address to the Muslim world Thursday.
Thursday, June 4,2009 08:08
by Benjamin Joffe-Walt themedialine.org

United States President Barack Obama referred to Jerusalem as the "secure and lasting home for Jews and Christians and Muslims" in an address to the Muslim world Thursday.


Obama said the world had a responsibility "to work for the day when... Jerusalem is a secure and lasting home for Jews and Christians and Muslims, and a place for all of the children of Abraham to mingle peacefully together."


The ambiguous comment, made during an extensive speech at Cairo University, was interpreted by many as a call for the internationalization of Jerusalem.


Obama said the Palestinians had "endured the pain of dislocation" for more than 60 years and must "endure the daily humiliations – large and small – that come with occupation."


"The situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable," he said, adding that the U.S. would not "turn our backs" on the Palestinian "aspiration" for statehood.


Obama directly called on Israel to "acknowledge" the right of the Palestinian people to have a state and "stop" the construction of Jewish communities in the territories captured by Israel in the 1967 war.


While the wording was sharp and forceful, Obama did not unveil his plan for Israel to make peace with the Arab world. The White House has indicated that this has been pushed off for a different venue.


Obama ignored the recent controversy over whether a call for Israel to "stop" such construction would include the "natural growth" of communities already established.


"The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements," Obama said. "This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It"s time for these settlements to stop."


“I don’t think he could have been more tough," Sa’id Nafa’, an Israeli Knesset (parliament) member from the Israeli Arab Balad party, told The Media Line. "I do believe he will take stronger measures to make Israel stop building in the settlements.”


Israel recently claimed Obama"s call is a reversal of past understandings with the Bush Administration. While Obama did not address the point, he said the U.S. would "Say in public what we say in private to Israelis, Palestinians and Arabs," perhaps addressing such private understandings.


While most public Israeli declarations after the speech claimed Obama had not said anything that had not been previously stated, there was a degree of disquiet among Israeli leaders and analysts regarding the Jerusalem comment.


"One will have to see whether there was a political intention with regards to his reference to the three faiths in Jerusalem," Zalman Shoval, a former Israeli ambassador to the U.S. and confidant of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, told The Media Line.


"We can see where this president is coming from," he said, adding that if Obama intended the comment as a call for Jerusalem"s internationalization, "It would not be acceptable just as it was not acceptable to [Israel"s founding prime minister] David Ben Gurion from day one."


Mr. Nafa" was just as confused by the Jerusalem comment. "It’s hard to know what he meant exactly. When he says Jerusalem should be open for everyone, it’s hard to conclude that he means internationalization... It’s possible he’s looking for a way not to divide Jerusalem, but to make it a city for everyone.”


To Israel"s favor, Obama called the U.S. bond with the Jewish state "unbreakable" and based on "the recognition that the aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied... Six million Jews were killed – more than the entire Jewish population of Israel today. Denying that fact is baseless, ignorant, and hateful."


The U.S. president called on Palestinians to renounce violence, drawing an analogy between their predicament and that of black slaves in America. "Violence is a dead end," he said, specifically calling on Hamas to end violence and recognize both past agreements and Israel"s right to exist. "It is a sign of neither courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus. That is not how moral authority is claimed; that is how it is surrendered."


Speaking to the role of the greater Muslim world in the conflict, he said "Arab States must recognize that the Arab Peace Initiative was an important beginning, but not the end of their responsibilities," calling on Arab leaders to "recognize Israel"s legitimacy."


The comments were taken negatively by many in the Arab world. "He didn"t want to anger anyone on the Palestinian issue," Abdel Rahman Mansour, a leading Egyptian reformist blogger and member of the Muslim Brotherhood, told The Media Line. Mansour saw Obama"s reference to "an important beginning" as "absurd" given what he and many Arabs feel are the clear parameters of the initiative: "that Israel return to the borders of 67."


The speech, which ran almost an hour, centered on seven themes: violent extremism; the Israeli Palestinian conflict; Iran and nuclear weapons; democracy; religious freedom; women"s rights and economic development.


The president focused on developing common ground with the Muslim world. "Words alone cannot meet the needs of our people," Obama said. "The challenges faced by people around the world are shared. Our failure to meet them will hurt us all."


Obama spoke extensively of the contributions of Islam to the world and hailed a new beginning in U.S. Muslim relations. "I have come here to seek a new beginning between the United States and the Muslim world based upon mutual interest and mutual respect."


"I have known Islam on three continents before coming to the region where it was first revealed," he said, alluding to his personal experience. "Partnership between America and Islam must be based on what Islam is, not what it isn"t," he added to great applause.


"That same principle must apply to Muslim perceptions of America," he added, to noticeably more muffled applause.


On Iran"s nuclear program, the president spoke of shared interests, declared that the issue is "not simply about America"s interests. It is about preventing a nuclear arms race in the Middle East that could lead this region and the world down a hugely dangerous path."


The president reiterated his "commitment to seek a world in which no nations hold nuclear weapons," adding that "No single nation should pick and choose which nations hold nuclear weapons."


Obama stated that Iran "should have the right to access peaceful nuclear power if it complies with its responsibilities under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty."


On the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the U.S. president spoke of the need to persevere in Afghanistan, but added that "unlike Afghanistan, Iraq was a war of choice." He repeated a commitment to remove U.S. combat troops from Iraqi cities by July and from Iraq altogether by 2012.


Obama then made some relatively elevated comments on free speech, equal rights, transparency and freedom of religion, but did not specifically criticize any Arab regime. "Suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away," he said.


"You must maintain your power through consent, not coercion," he added to great applause, in a comment clearly intended for Muslim leaders. "There are some who advocate for democracy only when they are out of power. Once in power, they are ruthless in suppressing the rights of others."


An audience member then screamed "We love you!"


"Thank you," Obama replied.


The Source

Posted in Activites , Palestine , Obama , Human Rights  
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