Friday, September 23, 2011

Let Me Qualify That

From Obama's speech at the UN General Assembly (Full transcript, Haaretz, 21/9/11):

"Now, I know, particularly this week, that for many in this hall, there's one issue that stands as a test for these principles and a test for American foreign policy, and that is the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians. One year ago, I stood at this podium and I called for an independent Palestine. I believed then, and I believe now, that the Palestinian people deserve a state of their own. But..."


"... what I also said is that a genuine peace can only be realized between the Israelis and the Palestinians themselves. One year later, despite extensive efforts by America and others, the parties have not bridged their differences. Faced with this stalemate, I put forward a new basis for negotiations in May of this year. That basis is clear. It's well known to all of us here. Israelis must know that any agreement provides assurances for their security. Palestinians deserve to know the territorial basis of their state. Now, I know that many are frustrated by the lack of progress. I assure you, so am I. But..."


"... the question isn't the goal that we seek - the question is how do we reach that goal?. And I am convinced there is no short cut to the end of a conflict that has edured for decades."

Hm... I wonder why it's endured for decades. Would unstinting US cash, military hardware and diplomatic backing have something to do with it?

"Peace is hard work."

Yeah, especially with the Israel lobby breathing down your neck. The more historically literate among the delegates would have perhaps recalled the famous words of President Harry Truman (who, incidentally, recognised the state of Israel in a mere 11 minutes after David Ben-Gurion's Declaration of Independence on May 14 1948): "I'm sorry gentlemen, but I have to answer to hundreds of thousands who are anxious for the success of Zionism: I don't have hundreds of thousands of Arabs among my constituents." And speaking of history, Obama himself must've had his mind wonderfully concentrated by the loss of historically Democratic Brooklyn and Queens to the Republicans the day before.

"Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the United Nations - if it were that easy, it would have been accomplished by now."

Yeah, what's international law got to do with it? Or anything much these days?

"Ultimately, it is the Israelis and the Palestinians - not us - who must live side by side. Ultimately, it is the Israelis and the Palestinians - not us - who must reach agreement on the issues that divide them: on borders and on security, on refugees and Jerusalem. Ultimately, peace depends on compromise among people who must live together long after our speeches are over, long after our votes have been tallied. That's the lesson of Northern Ireland, where ancient antagonists bridged their differences. That's the lesson of Sudan, where a negotiated settlement led to an independent state. And that is and will be the path to a Palestinian state - negotiations between the parties."

It's funny - Palestine went from 100% in 1947 to 45% in November 1947 to 22% in 1948/9 to 0% in 1967. But there's still room for Palestinians to compromise. Right.

"We seek a future where Palestinians live in a sovereign state of their own, with no limit to what they can achieve. There's no question that the Palestinians have seen that vision delayed for too long. It is precisely because we believe so strongly in the aspirations of the Palestinian people that America has invested so much time and so much effort in the building of a Palestinian state, and the negotiations that can deliver a Palestinian state. But..."

And here's the biggest BUT of them all:

"... understand this as well: America's commitment to Israel's security is unshakeable. Our friendship with Israel is deep and enduring. And so we believe that any lasting peace must acknowledge the very real security concerns that Israel faces every single day. Let us be honest with ourselves: Israel is surrounded by neighbors that have waged repeated wars against it. Israel's citizens have been killed by rockets fired at their houses and suicide bombs on their buses. Israel's children come of age knowing that throughout the region, other children are taught to hate them. Israel, a small country of less than 8 million people, looks out at a world where leaders of much larger nations threaten to wipe it off the map. The Jewish people carried the burden of centuries of exile and persecution, and fresh memories of knowing that 6 million people were killed simply because of who they are. Those are facts. They cannot be denied. The Jewish people have forged a successful state in their historic homeland. Israel deserves recognition. It deserves normal relations with its neighbours. And friends of the Palestinians do them no favors by ignoring this truth, just as friends of Israel must recognize the need to pursue a two-state solution with a secure Israel next to an independent Palestine."

Then, for some strange reason, the following bit was omitted from the transcript: OK, OK. I can see you mongrels squirming in your seats. I can see your eyes rolling. I can hear you all groaning. (Not you of course, Australia and Canada. You go girls!) But I don't give a damn, OK? Cuz I'm Israel's bitch and I'm standing by my man and you bastards better get used to it! Seems you've all forgotten my performance of Stand By Your Man at the AIPAC shindig in May. Sit tight and I'll sing it again: "We know how difficult that search for security can be, especially for a small nation like Israel in a tough neighborhood. I've seen it firsthand. When I touched my hand against the Western wall and placed my prayer between its ancient stones, I thought of all the centuries that the children of Israel had longed to return to their ancient homeland. When I went to Sderot, I saw the daily struggle to survive in the eyes of an 8-year old boy who lost his legs to a Hamas rocket. And when I walked among the Hall of Names at Yad Vashem, I grasped the existential fear of Israelis when a modern dictator seeks nuclear weapons and threatens to wipe Israel off the map." (See my 27/5/11 post Obama: Feel the Love)

"That is the truth - each side has legitimate aspirations - and that's part of what makes peace so hard. And the deadlock will only be broken when each side learns to stand in the other's shoes; each side can see the world through the other's eyes. That's what we should be encouraging. That's what we should be encouraging. That's what we should be promoting. This body - founded, as it was, out of the ashes of war and genocide, dedicated, as it is, to the dignity of every single person - must recognise the reality that is lived by both the Palestinians and the Israelis. The measure of our actions must always be whether they advance the right of Israeli and Palestinian children to live lives of peace and security and dignity and opportunity. And we will only succeed in that effort if we can encourage the parties to sit down, to listen to each other, and to understand each other's hopes and each other's fears. That is the project to which America is committed. There are no shortcuts. And that is what the United Nations should be focused on in the weeks and months to come."

Zounds! Relationship counselling! Why didn't anybody think of this before? The man's a genius!

No comments: