President Obama's Opposing UN Speeches: 2010 vs 2011


I listened to President Obama’s address to the UN September 21, 2011. Overall he thinks the world is doing rather well, democracy is breaking out. He did not address the potential financial tsunami headed for Greece and by proxy the rest of us.

He covered different issues, health care, climate change, science, the philosophy of peace. It seems rather comprehensive and superfluous for the setting. He appeared to say “You need me to anchor you in my view of reality. You need me to interpret world events for you, so here goes?” Was it really necessary to give the American view of the history of the Middle East to those who live it?

President Obama then continued the history lesson splicing in recent events. He addressed our aspirations, said how 'hard peace is' (5 x’s), he hopes peace will be defined by our hopes not by our fears. We all hope that but did the players really need a US presidential lecture?

He did not address the Palestinian state directly. The one issue the world was listening for. He did see Israel and Palestine as equal. That is likely to play differently in each arena.This year he has promised to veto the Palestinian bid for statehood. Last year, in his UN speech he said the issue would be resolved so that Palestine could be recognized this year. Confusion reigns. Did his prior speech set the stage for Palestinian expectations and make a way for their request to come to the table now?

Palestinians listened to his projection last year and 10,000 of them, jubilant at the thought Palestine may be recognized, took to the streets today. What will happen now that President Obama said we are standing with Israel? We have repeatedly witnessed how easily mob jubilance turns to death and riot.  In their jubilance they threw rocks and Molotov cocktails at the Israeli soldiers. They burned two American flags. If that is jubilance what will frustration look like?

Did President Obama set them up for this? His current position, while welcomed by Israel and those who support Israel as a nation, is confusing. His former UN and Cairo speeches indicate Palestine will be recognized as a separate state. Earlier this year his much criticized lecture to Israel’s Prime Minister said Israel needed to revert to pre 1967 boundaries. That sent shudders through the entire Middle East. Welcome shudders to those who want a Palestinian state, and a reduced Israel and abject fear through Israel. Now today, we are their best friend and will stand with them.

Which is it Mr President? No history, no lecture, no comprehensive analysis of the world’s status including climate change, just a plain answer. Will the US stand with current Israel or not? Your confusing rhetoric encourages the Palestinians' great expectations, and may have emboldened them to ask for what you predicted would occur. Today's speech dashes those hopes. This is not only unwise it is dangerous. They will not take it out on you, but they will Israel. Those soldiers standing in a line against the 10,000 protestors already face Molotov cocktails, what will they face if you veto the Palestinian request for statehood in a few days?

This issue is complex, memories are long, war has raged there for centuries. There will be no quick fix, not at Camp David, not at the UN. President Obama is correct, the problem lies with the players and the solution must be found amongst them. They have to engage in direct peace talks, not use 3rd parties like the UN to circumnavigate that process.  I am sure he did not mean to lift Palestinian hopes in 2010 only to dash them in 2011, leading to Palestinian disappointment and possible violence, but good intentions aside, he just may well have.


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