President Barack Obama delivered his long-awaited speech in Cairo, Egypt today, seeking what he called a “new beginning” for US relations with the Muslim world. The president sought to cover a wide variety of topics in an effort to break what he called “the crude stereotype of a self-interested empire.”
The principle topic however was the Israel-Palestinian conflict, a major source of resentment for the US across the Muslim world. And while Obama insisted that the bond between the US and Israel was unbreakable, he did reiterate his call for Palestinian statehood, saying Palestine could no more be denied than Israel could.
Response across the Muslim world was largely positive, with Muslims praising him for quoting from the Qu’ran and saying his comments were a step toward better ties with the US. Still, others saw it as only a small step, and were skeptical that it signaled any actual policy changes.
Israelis were somewhat less positive about it, though one government official conceded that it “could have been worse.” MP Michael Ben-Ari, who was arrested earlier this week during settler riots in the West Bank, condemned Obama for “his pro-Islamic trends,” and attributed the content of his speech to “his hatred for the people of Israel.”
In the end, President Obama managed to deliver the Cairo speech without getting any shoes thrown at him, yet even in the US Muslims are going to take a wait and see attitude before embracing it as a a concrete change.