I didn't watch Obama's big speech in Cairo, but I've read the transcript. It's first rate: long, detailed, honest, evenhanded, and temperate. If I have a complaint, it's that it struck me, both literally and figuratively, as maybe a little bit too by-the-numbers. But I think part of that is a reaction to the high bar Obama has set for himself: his oratory is so good that it's easy to get a little jaded by yet another great performance.
I imagine that this part will end up getting a lot of attention:
Palestinians must abandon violence. Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and does not succeed. For centuries, black people in America suffered the lash of the whip as slaves and the humiliation of segregation. But it was not violence that won full and equal rights. It was a peaceful and determined insistence upon the ideals at the center of America's founding. This same story can be told by people from South Africa to South Asia; from Eastern Europe to Indonesia. It's a story with a simple truth: that violence is a dead end. It is a sign of neither courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus. That is not how moral authority is claimed; that is how it is surrendered.
Now is the time for Palestinians to focus on what they can build. The Palestinian Authority must develop its capacity to govern, with institutions that serve the needs of its people. Hamas does have support among some Palestinians, but they also have responsibilities. To play a role in fulfilling Palestinian aspirations, and to unify the Palestinian people, Hamas must put an end to violence, recognize past agreements, and recognize Israel's right to exist.
At the same time, Israelis must acknowledge that just as Israel's right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestine's. The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop.
In some sense, there's nothing new here: most of it is longstanding American policy, and Obama's stand on West Bank settlements was made clear last week. Still: it might light a fire under both sides.
Nick Baumann calls Obama's speech "Nine Hard Truths," and there's something to that. It offered something to everyone, but it also offered challenges to everyone. Marc Lynch has a few initial thoughts here, but warns us to hold off a bit on trying to gauge Arab reaction: "A cautionary note, though — English-language Egyptian blogs are likely to be a particularly poor initial 'focus group' for judging the response. But listening to the response and engaging in the debate which emerges will be key, for American officials and for the American public. Because Obama's address sought to reframe the conversation, we won't know whether it succeeds until we see how the subsequent political debate unfolds."
The full text of the speech is below the fold.