US President Barack Obama delivered his much anticipated address to the Muslim world in Cairo today.
Obama opened the speech with a greeting of peace in Arabic: “As-Salaam-Alaikum” then set out to build a bridge between the United States, and a Muslim world that after 8 years of George W. Bush is anything but trusting.
Obama quoted the Quran several times and acknowledging his personal ties to Islam, while calling on the Muslim world to embrace principles of justice, progress, tolerance and the dignity of all human beings. Notably he stopped short of Bush in calling for democracy.
The speech was impeccable, and early reports suggest that it was well received in the Middle East. However there was one portion that will undoubtedly upset the Israeli lobby.
Starting on a note about Hamas, Obama said “Hamas must put an end to violence, recognize past agreements, and recognize Israel’s right to exist.” On Palestine: “The Palestinian Authority must develop its capacity to govern, with institutions that serve the needs of its people,” Obama said.
But this is the part that will upset some Israelis: “At the same time, Israelis must acknowledge that just as Israel’s right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestine. The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements” on the West Bank and outskirts of Jerusalem, he said. “It is time for these settlements to stop.” As for Jerusalem, he said it should be a “secure and lasting home for Jews and Christians and Muslims.”