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Obama’s Oratory Skills and Peace in the Middle East

By: Jamal Kanj*

May 22, 2011

I used to get annoyed when media pundits described Obama speeches as excellent on rhetoric, but not much substance. Sadly on May 19, 2011, president Obama’s speech on the Middle East validated those misgivings.

While the President may be genuine, he has proven powerless in the face of Israel’s lobby and the influence of money donors on elected US officials.  Since his now infamous speech in Cairo, he has barefacedly backed off on his blue print vision for peace in the Middle East.

In the meantime, Israel has made a mockery of the US President by responding to every US peace proposal with building more illegal settlements, and preempting US official visits to the region with new illegal expansion projects in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. In fact, US efforts to push the peace process forwards have become an omen of more Israeli land grab and illegal settlements in the area designated for the future of the Palestinian state.

Case and point, on the same day Obama delivered his Middle East policy speech, Israel authorized new illegal Jewish only housing units in East Jerusalem. According to Israeli ministry official "The authorization of plans today [May 19] for more than 1,500 units constitutes a clear message of Israel to the entire world,'' declared Yair Gabbai of the Israeli Interior Ministry planning to the Israel Radio; just as Israel has done a year ago, ahead of US Vice President’s visit to Jerusalem.

Yet before suggesting the 1967 borders as the basis of the new Palestinian state, president Obama repeated the same expired but already fulfilled demand of the Palestinians:  “And Palestinians will never realize their independence by denying the right of Israel to exist.”

Any greenhorn observer of the Middle East politics will know that this trying one-sided recognition was settled times and again on many occasions since the signing of the Oslo agreement between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).  It was witnessed and presided over by an American president on the White House Lawn in September 1993 when the Oslo understanding was endorsed by the PLO and the Israeli Labor led government of the late Rabin.

Five years later, the new Israeli Likud government headed by non-other Benjamin Netanyahu, claimed that the PLO recognition of Israel was not sufficient. Netanyahu then demanded that Palestinians must also annul their national charter calling for democratic non sectarian state.

To appease the new Israeli government and its “amen corner,” in Washington, the American administration once more supported the Israeli demand. Again and without any reciprocal commitment from Israel, the PLO acquiesced and called a special meeting for the Palestine National Council in Gaza in December 1998 to annul the Palestinian Charter in the presence of US President, Clinton.

Obama, like all Western politicians today, treads with great care any plan not cleared or even drafted by the Israeli government. Hence before addressing Israel’s obligations under international law, Western officials [Obama in this case] preamble peace proposals with superfluous demands for Palestinians while showering it with incentive largess to placate Israel and its powerful lobby.

In his latest speech, it was puzzling to hear Obama asserting that America’s friendship with Israel was “rooted deeply in a shared history and shared values.” Uncertain what values the president referring to, was it the race based politics, or was it stealing land from Natives? Such values have long been moribund in America, but still practiced in Israel.

Next week, American President is scheduled to speak for the first time since becoming a president before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC,) the most powerful foreign lobby in America. The president is likely to water down his recent proposal in light of Israeli prime minister’s rejection, and then ask more of the Palestinians while accentuating his calls for recognizing Israel as “a Jewish state;” a program to institutionalize the politics of bigotry against more that 20 per cent of the Muslim and Christian natives, while denying the right of return to non Jews who were made homeless since 1948.

Withal, more oratory promises to Palestinians as they watch their land disappearing before their eyes at the hand of an insatiable Israeli monster financed by billions of American tax payers’ money to build “Jewish only” settlements on the remaining 22 per cent of historical Palestine.

 *Jamal Kanj writes frequently on Arab World issues and the author of “Children of Catastrophe, Journey from a Palestinian Refugee Camp to America”, Garnet Publishing, UK. Jamal’s articles can be read at www.jamalkanj.com, his email address is jkanj@yahoo.com