Tuesday, April 7, 2009

President Obama addresses the Muslim world from Turkey

From the Turkish Parliament in Ankara, President Obama spoke to the Muslim world about his determination to resolve the Israel-Palestine conflict, and to bring peace to the entire Middle East region.

President Obama said that his administration would seek the creation of Palestinian state, pointedly stressing that Israel and the Palestinians agreed on that goal under the Saudi sponsored peace plan, which has been endorsed by the US. “Let me be clear: The United States strongly supports the goal of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security,” He said. “That is a goal shared by Palestinians, Israelis, and people of good will around the world. That is a goal that the parties agreed to in the road map and at Annapolis. And that is a goal that I will actively pursue as president.”

With pressure building on Mr. Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel, from Mr. Gordon Brown of the UK, and Mr. Nicholas Sarkozy of France, and Mr. Mirek Topolanek of the Czech Republic, the current President of the European Union, to accept the “Two States Solution” at the center of the Saudi sponsored peace proposal, and now even more pressure from President Obama himself speaking from Ankora, Mr. Netanyahu quickly issued a brief statement: “Israel appreciates President Obama's commitment to Israel's security and to the pursuit of peace,” declared Mr. Netanyahu. “The government of Israel is committed to both of these goals and will formulate its policies in the near future so as to work closely with the United States.”

President Obama also addressed the perception of Muslims around the world that the US government is pursuing an as yet undeclared war against Islam. “The United States is not, and will never be, at war with Islam,” he said, to huge applause.

Turkey is a secular Muslim democracy. “The United States strongly supports Turkey’s bid to become a member of the European Union,” President Obama said. “We speak not as members of the E.U., but as close friends of Turkey and Europe.”

With this important address in Ankara, I hope President Obama has signaled his administration’s decision to implement an even handed, a more balanced, approach for resolving the unending Israel-Palestine conflict. And I also hope that his declarations in Ankara signal the dawn of a new chapter, a bright new beginning, for his administration as an unbiased and sincere arbiter for real peace in the Middle East.

The world will soon find out how sincere President Obama is in resolving the conflict. Mr. George Mitchell, US special envoy to Middle East, is due to arrive in Israel again, on April 13. After meeting with Mr. Netanyahu what he will say would be very instructive. Will he describe the Israeli settlements merely as “unhelpful”, the way Secretary of State Mrs. Clinton remarked about the settlements? Will he courageously and emphatically state that those settlements contravene International Laws, and so they must be dismantled?

Mr. Obama seems to regain his clear voice when he lands on foreign shores. But when he is in Washington, every phrase he utters regarding Israel seems to be carefully calibrated so as not to grate upon the Jewish Lobby’s (AIPAC’s) ears. Even his silence on certain topics, for example, his refusal to criticize Israel’s use of white phosphorus bombs on Palestinian civilians, and other equally atrocious actions of IDF (Israel Defense Forces) during the Gaza War, and also his refusal at his first news conference at the White House to name Israel as the only state in the Middle East that possesses nuclear weapons, is deliberate and intentional, so as not to offend Israeli sensibilities.

Let us wait and see whether there will be real change in the US policy regarding the Palestinians.

Let there be peace on earth.

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