June 5, 2009 Obama In Buchenwald- The Speech a Day Later

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A Daily Analysis
By Marc Schulman

June 5, 2009 Obama In Buchenwald- The Speech a Day Later

It’s a day after President Obama’s speech in Cairo, and the reactions have been pouring in. By and large, the speech was extremely well received. David Gergen who worked for three Presidents, called it by far the best speech ever given by an American President directed at the Muslim world. There is no doubt that Obama was forthcoming and elegant, and even said things that the Muslims would have preferred not to hear, both about Israel but about their own world as well. In Israel and the Jewish world there continues to be a great deal of concern regarding the question as to if the speech reflects a fundamental shift in American policy away from a policy of automatically supporting Israel. To some extent that is true. But, it clearly does not represent America turning its back on Israel.

Today Obama was in Germany and visited the concentration camp at Buchenwald with with German Chancellor Merkel and Elie Wiesel, who was incarcerated there. Obama said all the right things.Remaks His answer to a question at a press conference earlier with the German Chancellor was quite interesting. He demonstrated understanding of how hard politically it will be for Prime Minister Netanyahu to comply with his demand regarding the settlements. Obmama also made clear that it was not just the Israelis who had to take steps but the Palestinians and the Arab countries must as well. You can read below his full answers, or read the complete text of the press conference here. Chancellor Merkel made an interesting statement worth reprinting in response to a question about Germany’s responsibility to stop a future holocaust:

CHANCELLOR MERKEL: Well, first, experience -- part and parcel of our history, of our past experience here in Germany is obviously the Shoah. And out of that comes an everlasting responsibility for the safety and security of the state of Israel. If you like, this has been the (inaudible) of every German government, ever since the Federal Republic came into being, and it will always be that case.

Netanyahu is getting some message at this point. He appointed Dov Weisglass, one of former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s closest advisors, as his new advisor. In a television interview, Weisglass stated that he was going to urge Netanyahu to state that he accepts the two state solution and the roadmap.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: With respect to confidence-building measures or next steps, again, I'm going to be sending George Mitchell back into the region next week. He's going to be meeting with all the various parties involved. I think I've said publicly and I repeated in the speech some things that are going to have to be done.

You know, a lot of attention has been given to my statement that the Israelis need to stop settlement construction, and I recognize that it's received20a lot of attention in Israel, as well. Keep in mind that all I've done there is reaffirm commitments that the Israelis themselves had already made in the road map. And I recognize the very difficult politics within Israel of getting that done, and I'm very sympathetic to how hard it will be. - Hide quoted text -

But as Israel's friend, the United States I think has an obligation to just be honest with that friend about how important it is to achieve a two-state solution -- for Israel's national security interests, as well as ours, as well as the Palestinians. And that's an area where steps can be taken.

They're not the only steps, by the way, that Israel can take and will need to take in order to advance movement towards peace. And I mentioned some of the other issues that I've discussed with Prime Minister Netanyahu's office, for example, increasing freedom of movement within the West Bank, dealing with the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and allowing reconstruction to proceed more aggressively.

What's been interesting is that less attention has been focused on the insistence on my part that the Palestinians and the Arab states have to take very concrete actions. When it comes to the Palestinians, we know what they're supposed to be doing. They have to continue to make progress on security in the West Bank.

They have to deal with incitement issues. There's still a tendency, even within -- among Pale stinians who say they are interested in peace with Israel, to engage in statements that are -- that incite a hatred of Israel or are not constructive to the peace process. Now I think, to his credit, President Abbas has made progress on this issue -- but not enough.

We still have not seen a firm commitment from the Palestinian Authority that they can control some of the border areas that Israel is going to be very concerned about if there were to be a two-state solution. There are still problems of corruption and mismanagement within the Authority that have to be addressed.

So there are going to be a whole set of things having to do with the Palestinians' ability to govern effectively and maintain security. And if they're not solved, Israelis are going to have trouble moving forward.

And the Arab states, what I'd like to see is indicators that they are willing, if Israel makes tough commitments, to also make some hard choices that will allow for an opening of commerce, diplomatic exchanges between Israel and its neighbors.

Now, all these things are going to take time. They're not going to happen immediately. But I'm confident that if we stick with it, having started early, that we can make some serious progress this year.

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