Three reactions to the Obama speech by left-leaning Israeli journalists. More below.
First up Uri Avnery with The Tone and the Music:
From the very first word, every listener in the hall and in the world felt the honesty of the man, that his heart and his tongue were in harmony, that this is not a politician of the old familiar sort – hypocritical, sanctimonious, calculating. His body language was speaking, and so were his facial expressions That’s why the speech was so important. The new moral integrity and the sense of honesty increased the impact of the revolutionary content…
The American culture is based on the myth of the Wild West, with its Good Guys and Bad Guys, violent justice, dueling under the midday sun. Since the American nation is composed of immigrants from all over the world, its unity seems to require a threatening, world-encompassing evil enemy, like the Nazis and the Japs, or the Commies. After the collapse of the Soviet empire, this role was taken over by Islam…
When Obama is now uprooting this myth, he is revolutionizing American culture. He wipes away the picture of one enemy, without painting another in its place. He preaches against the violent, adversary attitude itself, and starts to work to replace it with a culture of partnership between nations, civilizations and religions.
I see Obama as the first great messenger of the 21st century. He is the son of a new era, where the economy is global and the whole of humanity faces the danger to the very existence of life on the planet Earth. An era where the Internet connects a boy in New Zealand with a girl in Namibia in real time, where a disease in a small Mexican village spreads all over the globe within days.
This world needs a world law, a world order, a world democracy. That’s why this speech really was historic: Obama outlined the basic contours of a world constitution.
Next, Gideon Levy with Obama emerged in Cairo as a true friend of Israel:
Indeed, there was promise in Cairo, of the dawn of a new age. A U.S. president talking about negotiations with Iran without preconditions or tacit threats, even willing to accept Iran having civilian nuclear capability; a president who talked about Hamas as a legitimate organization that represents part of Palestinian society, but that needs to relinquish violence; who spoke with empathy about Palestinian suffering; who spoke, believe it or not, about security not only for Israelis but also for Palestinians; who said that all the settlements are illegal; who called for nuclear disarmament of the entire region. All are sensational messages, headlines whose significance cannot be exaggerated, even if there are those who desperately tried to argue yesterday that “there was nothing new in his speech.”
Not enough? Obama also spoke in Cairo (!) against denying the Holocaust, about the rights of women and Copts, and on the need for democracy tailored to each society’s culture.
This is the thinking of a great leader, who walked with wisdom and sensitivity between the Holocaust and the Nakba, between Israelis and Palestinians, between Americans and Arabs, between Christians, Jews and Muslims. How easy it is to imagine his predecessor, George Bush the Terrible, in the same position: a complete opposite.
Finally, Akiva Eldar with Obama’s Cairo speech signals end of the 9/11 era:
Alongside many questions, the address provided many exclamation marks. Thursday, the era of formal imbalance in the trilateral relationship between the U.S., Israel and the Arab world gave way to an equilateral triangle. Obama left Egypt with two tablets of the commandments – one for Jews and the other for Muslims. He left no room for doubt: An Israel that continues to discriminate against Palestinians and prevent them from exercising their rights to self-determination and freedom of movement cannot expect affirmative action from the U.S. It is hard to believe that Obama simply forgot to mention the words “Jewish state.” The president believes that the nature of the State of Israel is something only the State of Israel can decide.
Obama placed violence against Israel on a par with the settlements and the humiliation of Palestinians in the territories. He spoke in the same breath about the struggle of Palestinians who lost their homes more than 60 years ago and the struggle of African slaves in the U.S. The Israelis could see themselves in the sentence that mentioned the apartheid state of South Africa.
Having granted Israel several weeks to formulate its policy, Obama could not present detailed program for realizing the two-state solution. However, the two documents that he did mention – the road map and the Arab Peace Initiative – suggest a framework from which there can be no deviation: No more formulas like Resolution 242, whose interpretations vary, or loopholes for continuing the settlement building. Nor is it an accident that he failed to mention “natural growth”: He was hinting that if Israel adopts a two-state solution, most of the settlements will become history anyway.
Obama gave Israel the following choices Thursday: Either the conservative Israeli government will adjust itself to the American people’s choice in electing a liberal president, or the speech will be the lightning that precedes the thunder.