President Obama spoke in Jerusalem, to a largely-student audience, on Thursday.
Perhaps in line with my cynicism about any substance on this trip to Israel and Palestine, I was not moved as I heard the speech. But perhaps I am being harsh --- many others saw this as a forthright speech, asking the Israeli people to press their leaders for movement on the Palestine issued.
In particular, this passage raised attention, as a sign that Obama will push the Israeli leadership to act on the Jewish settlements and military occupation that are blocking progress:
the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination and justice must also be recognized. Put yourself in their shoes – look at the world through their eyes. It is not fair that a Palestinian child cannot grow up in a state of her own, and lives with the presence of a foreign army that controls the movements of her parents every single day. It is not just when settler violence against Palestinians goes unpunished. It is not right to prevent Palestinians from farming their lands; to restrict a student’s ability to move around the West Bank; or to displace Palestinian families from their home. Neither occupation nor expulsion is the answer. Just as Israelis built a state in their homeland, Palestinians have a right to be a free people in their own land.
I am still withholding judgement. Attention to this section overlooks other parts of the Obama speech, including one which effectively told the Palestinians that they cannot press their case outside a US-supported "peace process". Signficantly, the President slapped down the successful Palestinian attempt to get Observer State recogntion at the UN: "The United States will oppose unilateral efforts to bypass negotiations through the United Nations."
Yet, at the same, time, Obama's Secretary of State John Kerry let it be known that Washington will not lead any attempt to revive that peace process.
So how will Obama's words be translated into meaningful action after he leaves Israel and Palestine today?