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JewishJournal.com

June 4, 2009

Obama in Cairo: Muslim world and U.S. need to work together

http://www.jewishjournal.com/blog/item/obama_in_cairo_muslim_world_and_us_need_to_work_together_20090604/

By the time I woke up, President Obama had given his much-anticipated speech at Cairo University. The New York Times reported:

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He dwelled on Iran, Iraq, and Afghanistan but reserved some of his sharpest words for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He offered no major initiatives on the Middle East peace process although he put Israelis and Palestinians on notice that he intends to deal directly with what he sees as intransigence on key issues, evoking the concerns of both parties but asking both to shift ground significantly.

The speech in Cairo, which he called a “timeless city,” redeemed a promise he made nearly two years ago while running for president. It was, perhaps, the riskiest speech of his young presidency, and Mr. Obama readily conceded that not every goal would be easily or quickly achieved.

“I have come here to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world; one based upon mutual interest and mutual respect; and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive, and need not be in competition,” he said. “Instead, they overlap, and share common principles — principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.”

His message was sweeping and forceful — at times scolding and combative — promoting democracy in Egypt, warning Israelis against building new settlements, and acknowledging that the United States had fallen short of its ideals, particularly in the Iraq war. It also evoked a new and nuanced tone, and some of Mr. Obama’s language drew appreciative applause from his audience of 3,000 invited guests in the Major Reception Hall at Cairo University.

The headline from the Jewish Telegraphic Agency was “Obama in Cairo: See conflict through eyes of the other.” JTA noted Obama’s comment that the United States’ bond with Israel is “unbreakable,” and focused on this key statement regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict:

“For decades, there has been a stalemate: two peoples with legitimate aspirations, each with a painful history that makes compromise elusive,” Obama said. “It is easy to point fingers—for Palestinians to point to the displacement brought by Israel’s founding, and for Israelis to point to the constant hostility and attacks throughout its history from within its borders as well as beyond. But if we see this conflict only from one side or the other, then we will be blind to the truth: The only resolution is for the aspirations of both sides to be met through two states, where Israelis and Palestinians each live in peace and security.”

It seems Obama’s comments were both politically safe and inspiring. But you can judge for yourself. The entire text of his speech—in which he quotes from the Quran, the Talmud and the Bible—is after the jump:

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