Political Musings August 2, 2013: President Barack Obama steps up involvement in peace talks, phones Netanyahu and Abbas





Obama steps up involvement in peace talks, phones Netanyahu and Abbas

By Bonnie K. Goodman

United States President Barack Obama stepped up his personal involvement in the peace process by calling Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday, August 1, 2013. This is the second time this week Obama…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency March 19 2013: President Barack Obama’s Middle East Trip to Israel & Jordan March 20-23, 2013 Schedule



President Obama’s Middle East Trip March 20-23, 2013

Source: WH

Related Blog Posts

Related Videos

Middle East Trip 2013

In the first foreign trip of his second term in office, President Obama will visit Israel, the West Bank, and Jordan.

Trip Schedule


  • President Obama will arrive in Tel Aviv, Israel, marking the President’s first trip to Israel as President of the United States.
  • President Obama will view an *Iron Dome Battery in Tel Aviv, Israel.
  • Later, President Obama will attend a bilateral meeting with Israeli President Peres in Jerusalem.
  • In the afternoon, President Obama will attend a bilateral meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, followed by a press conference.
  • In the evening, President Obama will attend a working dinner hosted by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu.

* Iron Dome is a short range rocket and mortar defense system, which was developed by Israel and produced with U.S. assistance. The Iron Dome system has saved countless Israeli lives, most recently during the November 2012 Gaza conflict.


  • President Obama will visit the Israel Museum, where he will view the Dead Sea Scrolls and also attend a technology expo.
  • President Obama will travel to Ramallah, West Bank where he will be greeted with an official arrival ceremony.
  • In the afternoon, President Obama will have a bilateral meeting with Palestinian Authority President Abbas.
  • President Obama will participate in a working lunch with Palestinian Authority President Abbas followed by a press conference.
  • Later, President Obama will attend a cultural event at Al-Bireh Youth Center and will meet with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Fayyad.
  • President Obama will give a speech at the Jerusalem Convention Center.
  • In the evening, President Obama will attend a dinner hosted by Israeli President Peres and will receive the Presidential Medal of Distinction.


  • The President will attend wreath laying ceremonies at Mount Herzl at the grave sites of Theodor Herzl and Yitzhak Rabin.
  • President Obama will visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum and participate in a wreath laying ceremony in the Hall of Remembrance.
  • In the afternoon, President Obama will travel to Bethlehem where he will tour the Church of the Nativity.
  • President Obama will travel to Amman, Jordan where he will be greeted by an official arrival ceremony.
  • President Obama will have a bilateral meeting with King Abdullah II of Jordan followed by a press conference.
  • In the evening, the President will have dinner with King Abdullah II of Jordan.


  • President Obama will travel to Petra.
  • President Obama will begin his journey back to the United States.

Full Text Campaign Buzz October 8, 2012: Mitt Romney’s Speech on Foreign Policy at Virginia Military Institute in Lexington Virginia Transcript — Says It’s ‘Time to Change Course’ in Mideast




Romney Says It’s ‘Time to Change Course’ in Mideast

Charles Dharapak/Associated Press
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney delivered a foreign policy speech at Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Va., on Monday.

Source: ABC News Radio, 10-8-12

Mitt Romney Monday painted a dismal picture of President Obama’s foreign policy during his years in the White House as the Republican candidate toughened his criticism of the administration’s handling of the terrorist attack in Libya.

Romney said that as president he would ensure the Syrian rebels got the weapons they need and that he would take a firmer hand with Egypt and in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

“It is time to change course in the Middle East,” said Romney….READ MORE

[READ the transcript of Romney’s speech on foreign policy.]

Transcript: Mitt Romney Remarks at Virginia Military Institute

Source: NYT, 10-8-12

The following is the full text of Mitt Romney’s speech on foreign policy as delivered on Monday at the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Va. (Transcript courtesy of Federal News Service)

MITT ROMNEY: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you so very much for that warm welcome. And I particularly appreciate the introduction by my good friend and tireless campaign companion, Governor Bob McDonnell. We have traveled the state together time and time again, and he goes all over the country helping me. He is also showing here in Virginia what conservative leadership can do to build a stronger economy.

And thank you also to Congressman Goodlatte for joining us today. I appreciate his service and leadership. And particular thanks to General Peay. I appreciate his invitation to be with you today at the Virginia Military Institute. It’s a — a privilege to be here at an institution like this that has done so much for our nation, both in times of war and in times of peace.

For more than 170 years VMI has done more than educate students. It has guided their transformation into citizens, warriors and leaders. VMI graduates have served with honor in our nation’s defense, just as many are doing today in Afghanistan and in other lands. And Since the September 11th attacks, many of VMI’s sons and daughters have defended America, and I mourn with you the 15 brave souls who have been lost. I join you in praying for the many VMI graduates who are right now serving in harm’s way. May God bless all who serve and all who have served.

Of all the VMI graduates, none is more distinguished, perhaps, than General George Marshall, the chief of staff of the Army who became secretary of state and secretary of defense, who helped to vanquish fascism and then planned Europe’s rescue from despair. His commitment to peace was born of his direct knowledge of the awful costs and consequences of war. General Marshall once said, quote, “the only way human beings can win a war is to prevent it.”

Those words were true in his time, and they are true in our time.

Last month our nation was attacked again. A U.S. Ambassador and three of our fellow Americans are dead, murdered in Benghazi, Libya. Among the dead were three veterans. All of them were fine men on a mission of peace and friendship to a nation that clearly longs for both. President Obama has said that Ambassador Chris Stevens and his colleagues represented the best of America, and he’s right. We all mourn their loss.

The attacks against us in Libya were not an isolated incident. They were accompanied by anti-American riots in nearly two dozen other countries, mostly in the Middle East, but also in Africa and Asia. Our embassies have been attacked. Our flag has been burned. Many of our citizens have been threatened and driven from their overseas homes by vicious mobs shouting “Death to America.” These mobs hoisted the black banner of Islamic extremism over American embassies on the anniversary of 9/11.

As the dust settles, as the murdered are buried, Americans are asking how this happened, how the threats we face have grown worse and what this calls on America to do. These are the right questions, and I’ve come here today to offer a larger perspective on these tragic recent events and to share with you and to share with all Americans my vision for a freer, more prosperous and more peaceful world.

The attacks on America last month should not be seen as random acts. They’re expressions of a larger struggle that is playing out across the broader Middle East, a region that’s now in the midst of the most profound upheaval in a century. And the fault lines of this struggle can be seen clearly in Benghazi itself.

The attack on our consulate there on September 11th, 2012, was likely the work of forces affiliated with those that attacked our homeland on September 11th, 2001.

This latest assault can’t be blamed on a reprehensible video insulting Islam, despite the administration’s attempts to convince us of that for so long. No, as the administration has finally conceded, these attacks were the deliberate work of terrorists who use violence to impose their dark ideology on others, especially on women and girls; who are fighting to control much of the Middle East today; and who seek to wage perpetual war on the West.

We saw all of this in Benghazi last month, but we also saw something else, something hopeful. After the attack on our consulate, tens of thousands of Libyans, most of them young people, held a massive protest in Benghazi against the very extremists who had murdered our people. They waved signs that read, “The ambassador was Libya’s friend” and “Libya is sorry.” They chanted “No to militias, no to militias.” They marched, unarmed, to the terrorist compound and then they burned it to the ground. As one Libyan woman said, “We are not going to go from darkness to darkness.”

This is the struggle that’s now shaken the entire Middle East. It’s the struggle of millions and millions of people — men and women, young and old, Muslims, Christians and nonbelievers — all of whom have had enough of the darkness. It’s a struggle for the dignity that comes with freedom and opportunity and the right to live under laws of our own making. It’s a struggle that’s been unfolded under green banners in the streets of Iran, in the public squares of Tunisia and Egypt and Yemen, and in the fights for liberty in Iraq and Afghanistan and Libya, and now in Syria.

In short, it’s a struggle between liberty and tyranny, justice and oppression, hope and despair.

We’ve seen this struggle before. It would be familiar to General George Marshall. In his time, the ashes of world war, another critical part of the world was torn between democracy and despotism. Fortunately, we had leaders of courage and vision, both Republicans and Democrats, who knew that America had to support friends who shared our values and prevent today’s crises from becoming tomorrow’s conflicts.

Statesmen like Marshall rallied our nation to rise to its responsibilities as the leader of the free world. We helped our friends to build and sustain free societies and free markets. We defended our friends and ourselves from our common enemies. We led. We led. And though the path was long and uncertain, the thought of war in Europe is as inconceivable today as it seemed inevitable in the last century.

This is what makes America exceptional: It is not only the character of our country; it is also the record of our accomplishments. America has a proud history of strong, confident, principled global leadership — a history that’s been written by patriots of both parties. That is America at its best and is the standard by which we measure every president as well as anyone who wishes to be president.

Unfortunately, this president’s policies have not been equal to our best examples of world leadership. And nowhere is this more evident than in the Middle East.

I want to be very clear: The blame for the murder of our people in Libya, and the attacks on our embassies in so many other countries, lies solely with those who carried them out — no one else. But it is our responsibility and the responsibility of the President to use America’s great power to shape history, not to lead from behind, leaving our destiny at the mercy of events.

Unfortunately, that’s exactly where we find ourselves in the Middle East under President Obama.

The relationship between the president of the United States and the prime minister of Israel, for example, our closest ally in the region, has suffered great strains. The president explicitly stated that his goal was to put daylight between the United States and Israel, and he’s succeeded. This is a dangerous situation that has set back the hope of peace in the Middle East and emboldened our mutual adversaries, especially Iran.

Iran today has never been closer to a nuclear weapons capability. It has never posed a greater danger to our friends, our allies and to us. And it has never acted less deterred by America, as was made clear last year, when Iranian agents plotted to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in our nation’s capital. And yet when millions of Iranians took to the streets in June of 2009; when they demanded freedom from a cruel regime that threatens the world; when they cried out, are you with us or are you with them, the American president was silent.

Across the greater Middle East, as the joy born from the downfall of dictators has given way to the painstaking work of building capable security forces and growing economies and developing effective democratic institutions, the president has failed to offer the tangible support that our partners want and need.

In Iraq the costly gains made by our troops are being eroded by rising violence, a resurgent al-Qaida, the weakening of democracy in Baghdad and the rising influence of Iran. And yet America’s ability to influence events for the better in Iraq has been undermined by the abrupt withdrawal of our entire troop presence.

The president’s tried, he tried, but he also failed to secure a responsible and gradual drawdown that would have better secured our gains.

The president has also failed to lead in Syria, where more than — more than 30,000 men, women, and children have been massacred by the Assad regime over the past 20 months. Violent extremists are flowing into the fight. Our ally Turkey has been attacked. And the conflict threatens stability in the region.

America can take pride in the blows that our military and intelligence professionals have inflicted on al-Qaida in Pakistan and Afghanistan, including the killing of Osama bin Laden. These are real achievements won at a high cost. Al-Qaida remains a strong force, however, in Yemen and Somalia, in Libya and other parts of North Africa, in Iraq and now in Syria. And other extremists have gained ground across the region. Drones and the modern instruments of war are important tools in our fight, but they are no substitute for a national security strategy for the Middle East.

The president is fond of saying that “the tide of war is receding.” And I want to believe him as much as anyone else. But when we look at the Middle East today, with Iran closer than ever to nuclear weapons capability, with the conflict in Syria threatening to destabilize the region and with violent extremists on the march, and with an American ambassador and three others dead — likely at the hands of al-Qaida affiliates — it’s clear that the risk of conflict in the region is higher now than when the president took office.

I know the president hopes for a safer, freer and more prosperous Middle East allied with us. I share this hope. But hope is not a strategy. We can’t support our friends and defeat our enemies in the Middle East when our words are not backed up by deeds, when our defense spending is being arbitrarily and deeply cut, when we have no trade agenda to speak of and the perception of our strategy is not one of partnership, but of passivity.

The greater tragedy of it all is that we are missing an historic opportunity to win new friends who share our values in the Middle East — friends who are fighting for their own futures against the very same violent extremists and evil tyrants and angry mobs who seek to harm us. Unfortunately, so many of these people who could be our friends feel that our president is indifferent to their quest for freedom and dignity. As one Syrian woman put it, “We will not forget that you forgot about us.”

It is time to change course in the Middle East. That course should be organized around these bedrock principles: America must have confidence in our cause, clarity in our purpose and resolve in our might. No friend of America will question our commitment to support them. No enemy that attacks America will question our resolve to defeat them. And no one anywhere, friend or foe, will doubt America’s capability to back up our words.

I will put the leaders of Iran on notice that the United States and our friends and allies will prevent them from acquiring nuclear weapons capability. I will not hesitate to impose new sanctions on Iran and will — and will tighten the sanctions we currently have. I will restore the permanent presence of aircraft carrier task forces in both the Eastern Mediterranean and the Gulf. And I’ll work with Israel to increase our military assistance and coordination. For the sake of peace, we must make clear to Iran through actions, not just words, that their nuclear pursuit will not be tolerated.

I’ll reaffirm our historic ties to Israel and our abiding commitment to its security. The world must never see any daylight between our two nations.

I’ll deepen our critical cooperation with our partners in the Gulf, and I’ll roll back President Obama’s deep and arbitrary cuts to our national defense that would devastate our military. I’ll make the critical defense investments that we need to remain secure.

The decisions we make today will determine our ability to protect America tomorrow. The first purpose of a strong military is to prevent war.

The size of our Navy is at levels not seen since 1916. I’ll restore our Navy to the size needed to fulfill our missions by building 15 ships per year, including three submarines. I’ll implement effective missile defenses to protect against threats. And on this, there will be no flexibility with Vladimir Putin. And I will call on our NATO allies to keep the greatest military alliance in history strong by honoring their commitment to each devote 2 percent of their GDP to security spending. Today only three of the 28 NATO nations meet this benchmark.

I’ll make further reforms to our foreign assistance to create incentives for good governance, for free enterprise and for greater trade in the Middle East and beyond. I’ll organize all assistance efforts in the greater Middle East under one official with responsibility and accountability to prioritize efforts and to produce results.

I’ll rally our friends and our allies to match our generosity with theirs. And I’ll make it clear to the recipients of our aid that in return for our material support, they must meet the responsibilities of every decent, modern government: to respect the rights of all of their citizens, including women and minorities; to ensure space for civil society, a free media, political parties and an independent judiciary; and to abide by their international commitments to protect our diplomats and our property.

I’ll champion free trade and restore it as a critical element of our strategy, both in the Middle East and across the world. The president has not signed one new free trade agreement in the past four years. I’ll reverse that failure. I’ll work with nations around the world that are committed to the principles of free enterprise, expanding existing relationships and establishing new ones.

I’ll support friends across the Middle East who share our values but need help defending them and their sovereignty against our common enemies.

In Libya I’ll support the Libyan people’s efforts to forge a lasting government that represents all of them, and I’ll vigorously pursue the terrorists who attacked our consulate in Benghazi and killed our fellow Americans.

In Egypt I’ll use our influence, including clear conditions on our aid, to urge the new government to represent all Egyptians, to build democratic institutions and to maintain its peace treaty with Israel. And we must persuade our friends and allies to place similar stipulations on their aid.

In Syria I’ll work with our partners to identify and organize those members of the opposition who share our values and then ensure they obtain the arms they need to defeat Assad’s tanks helicopters and fighter jets. Iran is sending arms to Assad because they know his downfall would be a strategic defeat for them. We should be working no less vigorously through our international partners to support the many Syrians who would deliver that defeat to Iran, rather than sitting on the sidelines. It’s essential that we develop influence with those forces in Syria that will one day lead a country that sits at the heart of the Middle East.

In Afghanistan I’ll pursue a real and successful transition to Afghan security forces by the end of 2014.

President Obama would have you believe that anyone who disagrees with his decisions in Afghanistan is arguing for endless war. But the route to war and to potential attacks here at home is a politically timed retreat that abandons the Afghan people to the same extremists who ravaged their country and used it to launch the attacks of 9/11. I’ll evaluate conditions on the ground and weigh the best advice of our military commanders. And I will affirm that my duty is not to protect my political prospects but to protect the security of the nation.

Finally, I’ll recommit America to the goal of a democratic, prosperous Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with the Jewish state of Israel. On this vital issue, the president has failed, and what should be a negotiation process has devolved into a series of heated disputes at the United Nations. In this old conflict, as in every challenge we face in the Middle East, only a new president will bring the chance to begin anew.

There’s a longing for American leadership in the Middle East — and it’s not unique to that region. It’s broadly felt by America’s friends and allies in other parts of the world as well: in Europe, where Putin’s Russia casts a long shadow over young democracies and where our oldest allies have been told we are “pivoting” away from them; in Asia and across the Pacific, where China’s recent assertiveness is sending chills throughout that region; and here in our own hemisphere, where our neighbors in Latin America want to resist the failed ideology of Hugo Chavez and the Castro brothers and deepen ties with the United States on trade and energy and security. But in all of these places, just as in the Middle East, the question is asked: Where does America stand?

I know many Americans are asking a different question: Why us? I know many Americans are asking whether our country today, with our ailing economy and our massive debt and after 11 years at war, is still capable of leading.

I believe that if America doesn’t lead, others will — others who don’t share our interests and our values — and the world would grow darker, for our friends and for us. America’s security and the cause of freedom cannot afford four more years like the last four years. I’m running for president because I believe the leader of the free world has a duty, to our citizens and to our friends everywhere, to use America’s great influence, wisely, with solemnity and without false pride, but also firmly and actively, to shape events in ways that secure our interests, further our values, prevent conflict and make the world better — not perfect but better.

Our friends and allies across the globe don’t want less American leadership. They want more — more of our moral support, more of our security cooperation, more of our trade, more of our assistance in building free societies and thriving economies. So many people across the world still look to America as the best hope of humankind. So many people still have faith in America. We must show them that we still have faith in ourselves; that we have the will and the wisdom to revive our stagnant economy, to roll back our unsustainable debt, to reform our government, to reverse the catastrophic cuts now threatening our national defense, to renew the sources of our great power and to lead the course of human events.

Sir Winston Churchill once said of George Marshall: “He always fought victoriously against defeatism, discouragement and disillusion.”

That’s the role our friends want America to play again, and it’s the role we must play.

The 21st century can and must be an American century. It began with terror and war and economic calamity. It’s our duty to steer it onto the path of freedom and peace and prosperity. The torch America carries is one of decency and hope. It’s not America’s torch alone, but it is America’s duty and honor to hold it high enough that all the world can see its light.

Thank you so much for your participation in this great charge. God bless you, and God bless the United States of America. Thank you very much. (Applause.)

Full Text Campaign Buzz September 25, 2012: Mitt Romney’s Speech to the Clinton Global Initiative




Romney Jokes He’s Waiting for His Clinton ‘Bounce’

Source: ABC News Radio, 9-25-12

Alex Wong/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Speaking just hours before President Obama takes the same stage, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney outlined his vision for foreign aid Tuesday at the annual Clinton Global Initiative in New York City.

The governor and former President Bill Clinton took the stage together, after which Clinton delivered complimentary remarks praising Romney’s support for the City Year service group when he was governor….READ MORE

Mitt Romney Delivers Remarks To The Clinton Global Initiative

Source: Mitt Romney Press, 9-25-12

Mitt Romney today delivered remarks to the Clinton Global Initiative in New York, New York. The following remarks were prepared for delivery:

Thank you, Mr. President.  I appreciate the kind words and your invitation here today.

If there’s one thing we’ve learned this election season, it’s that a few words from Bill Clinton can do any man a lot of good.  After that introduction, I guess all I have to do is wait a day or two for the bounce.

Since serving as President here in America, President Clinton has devoted himself to lifting the downtrodden around the world.  One of the best things that can happen to any cause, to any people, is to have Bill Clinton as its advocate.  That is how needy and neglected causes have become global initiatives. It is that work that invites us here today.

As I have watched the astounding impact of this Initiative from afar, I have been impressed by the extraordinary power you have derived by harnessing together different people of different backgrounds, and different institutions of different persuasions. You have fashioned partnerships across traditional boundaries — public and private, for-profit and nonprofit, charitable and commercial.

On a smaller scale, I have seen partnerships like this work before. In Massachusetts, two social pioneers brought corporations and government and volunteers together to form City Year, the model for Americorps. I sat with then-candidate for President Bill Clinton as he investigated the life-changing successes which occurred when young people came together for a year of service, linked in teams with corporate sponsors.  Then, as the head of the 2002 Winter Olympic Games, I saw again the stunning success that comes when the disparate elements of a community join together in unity, to overcome challenges that had seemed insurmountable before.

The Clinton Global Initiative has also demonstrated the effectiveness of entrepreneurship and social enterprise.  You endeavor to not only comfort the afflicted, but to also change lives thorough freedom, free enterprise, and the incomparable dignity of work.

Free enterprise has done more to bless humanity than any other economic system not only because it is the only system that creates a prosperous middle class, but also because it is the only system where the individual enjoys the freedom to guide and build his or her own life. Free enterprise cannot only make us better off financially, it can make us better people.

Ours is a compassionate nation. We look around us and see withering suffering. Our hearts break.  While we make up just 4.5 percent of the world’s population, we donate nearly a quarter of all global foreign aid—more than twice as much as any other country.  And Americans give more than money.  Pastors like Rick Warren lead mission trips that send thousands of Americans around the world, bringing aid and comfort to the poorest places on the planet.  American troops are first on the scene of natural disasters.  An earthquake strikes Haiti and care packages from America are among the first to arrive – and not far behind are former Presidents Clinton and Bush.

But too often our passion for charity is tempered by our sense that our aid is not always effective. We see stories of cases where American aid has been diverted to corrupt governments. We wonder why years of aid and relief seem never to extinguish the hardship, why the suffering persists decade after decade.

Perhaps some of our disappointments are due to our failure to recognize just how much the developing world has changed.  Many of our foreign aid efforts were designed at a time when government development assistance accounted for roughly 70 percent of all resources flowing to developing nations.  Today, 82 percent of the resources flowing into the developing world come from the private sector. If foreign aid can leverage this massive investment by private enterprise, it may exponentially expand the ability to not only care for those who suffer, but also to change lives.

Private enterprise is having a greater and greater positive impact in the developing world. The John Deere Company embarked upon a pilot project in Africa where it developed a suite of farm tools that could be attached to a very small tractor.  John Deere has also worked to expand the availability of capital to farmers so they can maintain and develop their businesses.  The result has been a good investment for John Deere and greater opportunity for African farmers, who are now able to grow more crops, and to provide for more plentiful lives.

For American foreign aid to become more effective, it must embrace the power of partnerships, access the transformative nature of free enterprise, and leverage the abundant resources that can come from the private sector.

There are three, quite legitimate, objects of our foreign aid.

First, to address humanitarian need.  Such is the case with the PEPFAR initiative, which has given medical treatment to millions suffering from HIV and AIDS.

Second, to foster a substantial United States strategic interest, be it military, diplomatic, or economic.

And there is a third purpose, one that will receive more attention and a much higher priority in a Romney Administration. And that is aid that elevates people and brings about lasting change in communities and in nations.

Many Americans are troubled by the developments in the Middle East. Syria has witnessed the killing of tens of thousands of people. The president of Egypt is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. Our Ambassador to Libya was assassinated in a terrorist attack.  And Iran is moving toward nuclear weapons capability. We feel that we are at the mercy of events, rather than shaping events.

I am often asked why, and what can we do to lead the Middle East to stability, to ease the suffering and the anger and the hate.

Religious extremism is certainly part of the problem.  But that’s not the whole story.

The population of the Middle East is young, particularly compared with the population of the West. And typically, these young people have few job prospects and the levels of youth unemployment across the region are excessive and chronic.  In nations that have undergone a change in leadership recently, young people have greater access to information that was once carefully guarded by tyrants and dictators.  They see the good as well as the bad in surrounding societies. They can now organize across vast regions, mobilizing populations. Idle, humiliated by poverty, and crushed by government corruption, their frustration and anger grows.

In such a setting, for America to change lives, to change communities and nations in the Middle East, foreign aid must also play a role. And the shape that role should take was brought into focus by the life and death of Muhammed Bouazizi of Tunisia, the street vendor whose self-immolation sparked the Arab Spring.

He was just 26 years old.  He had provided for his family since he was a young boy.  He worked a small fruit stand, selling to passers-by. The regular harassment by corrupt bureaucrats was elevated one day when they took crates of his fruit and his weighing scales away from him.

On the day of his protest, witnesses say that an officer slapped Bouazizi and he cried out, “Why are you doing this to me?  I’m a simple person, and I just want to work.”

I just want to work.

Work.  That must be at the heart of our effort to help people build economies that can create jobs for people, young and old alike. Work builds self-esteem. It transforms minds from fantasy and fanaticism to reality and grounding. Work will not long tolerate corruption nor quietly endure the brazen theft by government of the product of hard-working men and women.

To foster work and enterprise in the Middle East and in other developing countries, I will initiate “Prosperity Pacts.”  Working with the private sector, the program will identify the barriers to investment, trade, and entrepreneurialism in developing nations. In exchange for removing those barriers and opening their markets to U.S. investment and trade, developing nations will receive U.S. assistance packages focused on developing the institutions of liberty, the rule of law, and property rights.

We will focus our efforts on small and medium-size businesses. Microfinance has been an effective tool at promoting enterprise and prosperity, but we must expand support to small- and medium-size businesses that are too large for microfinance, but too small for traditional banks.

The aim of a much larger share of our aid must be the promotion of work and the fostering of free enterprise. Nothing we can do as a nation will change lives and nations more effectively and permanently than sharing the insight that lies at the foundation of America’s own economy–free people pursuing happiness in their own ways build a strong and prosperous nation.

When I was in business, I traveled to many other countries.  I was often struck by the vast difference in wealth among nations.  True, some of that was due to geography.  Rich countries often had natural resources like mineral deposits or ample waterways.  But in some cases, all that separated a rich country from a poor one was a faint line on a map.  Countries that were physically right next to each other were economically worlds apart.  Just think of North and South Korea.

I became convinced that the crucial difference between these countries wasn’t geography.  I noticed the most successful countries shared something in common.  They were the freest.  They protected the rights of the individual.  They enforced the rule of law.  And they encouraged free enterprise.  They understood that economic freedom is the only force in history that has consistently lifted people out of poverty – and kept people out of poverty.

A temporary aid package can jolt an economy.  It can fund some projects.  It can pay some bills.  It can employ some people some of the time.  But it can’t sustain an economy—not for long.  It can’t pull the whole cart—because at some point, the money runs out.

But an assistance program that helps unleash free enterprise creates enduring prosperity.  Free enterprise is based on mutual exchange—or, rather, millions of exchanges—millions of people trading, buying, selling, building, investing.  Yes, it has its ups and downs.  It isn’t perfect.  But it’s more durable.  It’s more reliable.  And ultimately, as history shows, it’s more successful.

The best example of the good free enterprise can do for the developing world is the example of the developed world itself.  My friend Arthur Brooks of the American Enterprise Institute has pointed out that before the year 1800, living standards in the West were appalling.  A person born in the eighteenth century lived essentially as his great-great-grandfather had.  Life was filled with disease and danger.

But starting in 1800, the West began two centuries of free enterprise and trade.  Living standards rose.  Literacy spread.  Health improved.  In our own country, between 1820 and 1998, real per capita GDP increased twenty-two-fold.

As the most prosperous nation in history, it is our duty to keep the engine of prosperity running—to open markets across the globe and to spread prosperity to all corners of the earth.  We should do it because it’s the right moral course to help others.

But it is also economically the smart thing to do. In our export industries, the typical job pays above what comparable workers make in other industries, and more than one-third of manufacturing jobs are tied to exports.  Sadly, we have lost over half a million manufacturing jobs over the last three and a half years.

As president, I will reverse this trend by ensuring we have trade that works for America.  I will negotiate new trade agreements, ask Congress to reinstate Trade Promotion Authority, complete negotiations to expand the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and create what I call a “Reagan Economic Zone,” where any nation willing to play by the rules can participate in a new community committed to fair and free trade.

I’ve laid out a new approach for a new era.  We’ll couple aid with trade and private investment to empower individuals, encourage innovators, and reward entrepreneurs.

Today, we face a world with unprecedented challenges and complexities.  We should not forget—and cannot forget—that not far from here, a voice of unspeakable evil and hatred has spoken out, threatening Israel and the civilized world.  But we come together knowing that the bitterness of hate is no match for the strength of love.

In the weeks ahead, I will continue to speak to these challenges and the opportunities that this moment presents us.   I will go beyond foreign assistance and describe what I believe America’s strategy should be to secure our interests and ideals during this uncertain time.

A year from now, I hope to return to this meeting as president, having made substantial progress toward achieving the reforms I’ve outlined.  But I also hope to remind the world of the goodness and the bigness of the American heart.  I will never apologize for America.  I believe that America has been one of the greatest forces for good the world has ever known.  We can hold that knowledge in our hearts with humility and unwavering conviction.

Thank you, Mr. President, and thank you all very much.

Full Text Obama Presidency September 25, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Speech to the United Nations UN General Assembly — Urges UN to Address Causes of Crisis in the Muslim World




Obama Urges UN to Address Causes of Crisis in the Muslim World

Source: ABC News Radio, 9-25-12


Amid mounting unrest in the Middle East, President Obama urged global leaders today to confront the “deeper causes” of the crisis, saying the turmoil serves as a reminder that true democracy is “hard work.”

“We face a choice between the forces that would drive us apart, and the hopes we hold in common,” the president told the United Nations General Assembly….READ MORE

Remarks by the President to the UN General Assembly

Source: WH, 9-25-12

United Nations Headquarters
New York, New York

10:22 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Mr. President, Mr. Secretary General, fellow delegates, ladies and gentleman:  I would like to begin today by telling you about an American named Chris Stevens.

Chris was born in a town called Grass Valley, California, the son of a lawyer and a musician.  As a young man, Chris joined the Peace Corps, and taught English in Morocco.  And he came to love and respect the people of North Africa and the Middle East. He would carry that commitment throughout his life.  As a diplomat, he worked from Egypt to Syria, from Saudi Arabia to Libya.  He was known for walking the streets of the cities where he worked — tasting the local food, meeting as many people as he could, speaking Arabic, listening with a broad smile.

Chris went to Benghazi in the early days of the Libyan revolution, arriving on a cargo ship.  As America’s representative, he helped the Libyan people as they coped with violent conflict, cared for the wounded, and crafted a vision for the future in which the rights of all Libyans would be respected. And after the revolution, he supported the birth of a new democracy, as Libyans held elections, and built new institutions, and began to move forward after decades of dictatorship.

Chris Stevens loved his work.  He took pride in the country he served, and he saw dignity in the people that he met.  And two weeks ago, he traveled to Benghazi to review plans to establish a new cultural center and modernize a hospital.  That’s when America’s compound came under attack.  Along with three of his colleagues, Chris was killed in the city that he helped to save. He was 52 years old.

I tell you this story because Chris Stevens embodied the best of America.  Like his fellow Foreign Service officers, he built bridges across oceans and cultures, and was deeply invested in the international cooperation that the United Nations represents.  He acted with humility, but he also stood up for a set of principles — a belief that individuals should be free to determine their own destiny, and live with liberty, dignity, justice, and opportunity.

The attacks on the civilians in Benghazi were attacks on America.  We are grateful for the assistance we received from the Libyan government and from the Libyan people.  There should be no doubt that we will be relentless in tracking down the killers and bringing them to justice.  And I also appreciate that in recent days, the leaders of other countries in the region — including Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen — have taken steps to secure our diplomatic facilities, and called for calm.  And so have religious authorities around the globe.

But understand, the attacks of the last two weeks are not simply an assault on America.  They are also an assault on the very ideals upon which the United Nations was founded — the notion that people can resolve their differences peacefully; that diplomacy can take the place of war; that in an interdependent world, all of us have a stake in working towards greater opportunity and security for our citizens.

If we are serious about upholding these ideals, it will not be enough to put more guards in front of an embassy, or to put out statements of regret and wait for the outrage to pass.  If we are serious about these ideals, we must speak honestly about the deeper causes of the crisis — because we face a choice between the forces that would drive us apart and the hopes that we hold in common.

Today, we must reaffirm that our future will be determined by people like Chris Stevens — and not by his killers.  Today, we must declare that this violence and intolerance has no place among our United Nations.

It has been less than two years since a vendor in Tunisia set himself on fire to protest the oppressive corruption in his country, and sparked what became known as the Arab Spring.  And since then, the world has been captivated by the transformation that’s taken place, and the United States has supported the forces of change.

We were inspired by the Tunisian protests that toppled a dictator, because we recognized our own beliefs in the aspiration of men and women who took to the streets.

We insisted on change in Egypt, because our support for democracy ultimately put us on the side of the people.

We supported a transition of leadership in Yemen, because the interests of the people were no longer being served by a corrupt status quo.

We intervened in Libya alongside a broad coalition, and with the mandate of the United Nations Security Council, because we had the ability to stop the slaughter of innocents, and because we believed that the aspirations of the people were more powerful than a tyrant.

And as we meet here, we again declare that the regime of Bashar al-Assad must come to an end so that the suffering of the Syrian people can stop and a new dawn can begin.

We have taken these positions because we believe that freedom and self-determination are not unique to one culture.  These are not simply American values or Western values — they are universal values.  And even as there will be huge challenges to come with a transition to democracy, I am convinced that ultimately government of the people, by the people, and for the people is more likely to bring about the stability, prosperity, and individual opportunity that serve as a basis for peace in our world.

So let us remember that this is a season of progress.  For the first time in decades, Tunisians, Egyptians and Libyans voted for new leaders in elections that were credible, competitive, and fair.  This democratic spirit has not been restricted to the Arab world.  Over the past year, we’ve seen peaceful transitions of power in Malawi and Senegal, and a new President in Somalia.  In Burma, a President has freed political prisoners and opened a closed society, a courageous dissident has been elected to parliament, and people look forward to further reform.  Around the globe, people are making their voices heard, insisting on their innate dignity, and the right to determine their future.

And yet the turmoil of recent weeks reminds us that the path to democracy does not end with the casting of a ballot.  Nelson Mandela once said:  “To be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”  (Applause.)

True democracy demands that citizens cannot be thrown in jail because of what they believe, and that businesses can be opened without paying a bribe.  It depends on the freedom of citizens to speak their minds and assemble without fear, and on the rule of law and due process that guarantees the rights of all people.

In other words, true democracy — real freedom — is hard work.  Those in power have to resist the temptation to crack down on dissidents.  In hard economic times, countries must be tempted — may be tempted to rally the people around perceived enemies, at home and abroad, rather than focusing on the painstaking work of reform.

Moreover, there will always be those that reject human progress — dictators who cling to power, corrupt interests that depend on the status quo, and extremists who fan the flames of hate and division.  From Northern Ireland to South Asia, from Africa to the Americas, from the Balkans to the Pacific Rim, we’ve witnessed convulsions that can accompany transitions to a new political order.

At time, the conflicts arise along the fault lines of race or tribe.  And often they arise from the difficulties of reconciling tradition and faith with the diversity and interdependence of the modern world.  In every country, there are those who find different religious beliefs threatening; in every culture, those who love freedom for themselves must ask themselves how much they’re willing to tolerate freedom for others.

That is what we saw play out in the last two weeks, as a crude and disgusting video sparked outrage throughout the Muslim world.  Now, I have made it clear that the United States government had nothing to do with this video, and I believe its message must be rejected by all who respect our common humanity.
It is an insult not only to Muslims, but to America as well — for as the city outside these walls makes clear, we are a country that has welcomed people of every race and every faith.  We are home to Muslims who worship across our country.  We not only respect the freedom of religion, we have laws that protect individuals from being harmed because of how they look or what they believe.  We understand why people take offense to this video because millions of our citizens are among them.

I know there are some who ask why we don’t just ban such a video.  And the answer is enshrined in our laws:  Our Constitution protects the right to practice free speech.

Here in the United States, countless publications provoke offense.  Like me, the majority of Americans are Christian, and yet we do not ban blasphemy against our most sacred beliefs.  As President of our country and Commander-in-Chief of our military, I accept that people are going to call me awful things every day — (laughter) — and I will always defend their right to do so.  (Applause.)

Americans have fought and died around the globe to protect the right of all people to express their views, even views that we profoundly disagree with.  We do not do so because we support hateful speech, but because our founders understood that without such protections, the capacity of each individual to express their own views and practice their own faith may be threatened.  We do so because in a diverse society, efforts to restrict speech can quickly become a tool to silence critics and oppress minorities.

We do so because given the power of faith in our lives, and the passion that religious differences can inflame, the strongest weapon against hateful speech is not repression; it is more speech — the voices of tolerance that rally against bigotry and blasphemy, and lift up the values of understanding and mutual respect.

Now, I know that not all countries in this body share this particular understanding of the protection of free speech.  We recognize that.  But in 2012, at a time when anyone with a cell phone can spread offensive views around the world with the click of a button, the notion that we can control the flow of information is obsolete.  The question, then, is how do we respond?

And on this we must agree:  There is no speech that justifies mindless violence.  (Applause.)  There are no words that excuse the killing of innocents.  There’s no video that justifies an attack on an embassy.  There’s no slander that provides an excuse for people to burn a restaurant in Lebanon, or destroy a school in Tunis, or cause death and destruction in Pakistan.

In this modern world with modern technologies, for us to respond in that way to hateful speech empowers any individual who engages in such speech to create chaos around the world.  We empower the worst of us if that’s how we respond.

More broadly, the events of the last two weeks also speak to the need for all of us to honestly address the tensions between the West and the Arab world that is moving towards democracy.

Now, let me be clear:  Just as we cannot solve every problem in the world, the United States has not and will not seek to dictate the outcome of democratic transitions abroad.  We do not expect other nations to agree with us on every issue, nor do we assume that the violence of the past weeks or the hateful speech by some individuals represent the views of the overwhelming majority of Muslims, any more than the views of the people who produced this video represents those of Americans.  However, I do believe that it is the obligation of all leaders in all countries to speak out forcefully against violence and extremism.  (Applause.)

It is time to marginalize those who — even when not directly resorting to violence — use hatred of America, or the West, or Israel, as the central organizing principle of politics. For that only gives cover, and sometimes makes an excuse, for those who do resort to violence.

That brand of politics — one that pits East against West, and South against North, Muslims against Christians and Hindu and Jews — can’t deliver on the promise of freedom.  To the youth, it offers only false hope.  Burning an American flag does nothing to provide a child an education.  Smashing apart a restaurant does not fill an empty stomach.  Attacking an embassy won’t create a single job.  That brand of politics only makes it harder to achieve what we must do together:  educating our children, and creating the opportunities that they deserve; protecting human rights, and extending democracy’s promise.

Understand America will never retreat from the world.  We will bring justice to those who harm our citizens and our friends, and we will stand with our allies.  We are willing to partner with countries around the world to deepen ties of trade and investment, and science and technology, energy and development — all efforts that can spark economic growth for all our people and stabilize democratic change.

But such efforts depend on a spirit of mutual interest and mutual respect.  No government or company, no school or NGO will be confident working in a country where its people are endangered.  For partnerships to be effective our citizens must be secure and our efforts must be welcomed.

A politics based only on anger — one based on dividing the world between “us” and “them” — not only sets back international cooperation, it ultimately undermines those who tolerate it.  All of us have an interest in standing up to these forces.

Let us remember that Muslims have suffered the most at the hands of extremism.  On the same day our civilians were killed in Benghazi, a Turkish police officer was murdered in Istanbul only days before his wedding; more than 10 Yemenis were killed in a car bomb in Sana’a; several Afghan children were mourned by their parents just days after they were killed by a suicide bomber in Kabul.

The impulse towards intolerance and violence may initially be focused on the West, but over time it cannot be contained.  The same impulses toward extremism are used to justify war between Sunni and Shia, between tribes and clans.  It leads not to strength and prosperity but to chaos.  In less than two years, we have seen largely peaceful protests bring more change to Muslim-majority countries than a decade of violence.  And extremists understand this.  Because they have nothing to offer to improve the lives of people, violence is their only way to stay relevant.  They don’t build; they only destroy.

It is time to leave the call of violence and the politics of division behind.  On so many issues, we face a choice between the promise of the future, or the prisons of the past.  And we cannot afford to get it wrong.  We must seize this moment.  And America stands ready to work with all who are willing to embrace a better future.

The future must not belong to those who target Coptic Christians in Egypt — it must be claimed by those in Tahrir Square who chanted, “Muslims, Christians, we are one.”  The future must not belong to those who bully women — it must be shaped by girls who go to school, and those who stand for a world where our daughters can live their dreams just like our sons.  (Applause.)

The future must not belong to those corrupt few who steal a country’s resources — it must be won by the students and entrepreneurs, the workers and business owners who seek a broader prosperity for all people.  Those are the women and men that America stands with; theirs is the vision we will support.

The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.  But to be credible, those who condemn that slander must also condemn the hate we see in the images of Jesus Christ that are desecrated, or churches that are destroyed, or the Holocaust that is denied.  (Applause.)

Let us condemn incitement against Sufi Muslims and Shiite pilgrims.  It’s time to heed the words of Gandhi:  “Intolerance is itself a form of violence and an obstacle to the growth of a true democratic spirit.”  (Applause.)  Together, we must work towards a world where we are strengthened by our differences, and not defined by them.  That is what America embodies, that’s the vision we will support.

Among Israelis and Palestinians, the future must not belong to those who turn their backs on a prospect of peace.  Let us leave behind those who thrive on conflict, those who reject the right of Israel to exist.  The road is hard, but the destination is clear — a secure, Jewish state of Israel and an independent, prosperous Palestine.  (Applause.)  Understanding that such a peace must come through a just agreement between the parties, America will walk alongside all who are prepared to make that journey.

In Syria, the future must not belong to a dictator who massacres his people.  If there is a cause that cries out for protest in the world today, peaceful protest, it is a regime that tortures children and shoots rockets at apartment buildings.  And we must remain engaged to assure that what began with citizens demanding their rights does not end in a cycle of sectarian violence.

Together, we must stand with those Syrians who believe in a different vision — a Syria that is united and inclusive, where children don’t need to fear their own government, and all Syrians have a say in how they are governed — Sunnis and Alawites, Kurds and Christians.  That’s what America stands for.  That is the outcome that we will work for — with sanctions and consequences for those who persecute, and assistance and support for those who work for this common good.  Because we believe that the Syrians who embrace this vision will have the strength and the legitimacy to lead.

In Iran, we see where the path of a violent and unaccountable ideology leads.  The Iranian people have a remarkable and ancient history, and many Iranians wish to enjoy peace and prosperity alongside their neighbors.  But just as it restricts the rights of its own people, the Iranian government continues to prop up a dictator in Damascus and supports terrorist groups abroad.  Time and again, it has failed to take the opportunity to demonstrate that its nuclear program is peaceful, and to meet its obligations to the United Nations.

So let me be clear.  America wants to resolve this issue through diplomacy, and we believe that there is still time and space to do so.  But that time is not unlimited.  We respect the right of nations to access peaceful nuclear power, but one of the purposes of the United Nations is to see that we harness that power for peace.  And make no mistake, a nuclear-armed Iran is not a challenge that can be contained.  It would threaten the elimination of Israel, the security of Gulf nations, and the stability of the global economy.  It risks triggering a nuclear-arms race in the region, and the unraveling of the non-proliferation treaty.  That’s why a coalition of countries is holding the Iranian government accountable.  And that’s why the United States will do what we must to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

We know from painful experience that the path to security and prosperity does not lie outside the boundaries of international law and respect for human rights.  That’s why this institution was established from the rubble of conflict.  That is why liberty triumphed over tyranny in the Cold War.  And that is the lesson of the last two decades as well.

History shows that peace and progress come to those who make the right choices.  Nations in every part of the world have traveled this difficult path.  Europe, the bloodiest battlefield of the 20th century, is united, free and at peace.  From Brazil to South Africa, from Turkey to South Korea, from India to Indonesia, people of different races, religions, and traditions have lifted millions out of poverty, while respecting the rights of their citizens and meeting their responsibilities as nations.

And it is because of the progress that I’ve witnessed in my own lifetime, the progress that I’ve witnessed after nearly four years as President, that I remain ever hopeful about the world that we live in.  The war in Iraq is over.  American troops have come home.  We’ve begun a transition in Afghanistan, and America and our allies will end our war on schedule in 2014.  Al Qaeda has been weakened, and Osama bin Laden is no more.  Nations have come together to lock down nuclear materials, and America and Russia are reducing our arsenals.  We have seen hard choices made — from Naypyidaw to Cairo to Abidjan — to put more power in the hands of citizens.

At a time of economic challenge, the world has come together to broaden prosperity.  Through the G20, we have partnered with emerging countries to keep the world on the path of recovery.  America has pursued a development agenda that fuels growth and breaks dependency, and worked with African leaders to help them feed their nations.  New partnerships have been forged to combat corruption and promote government that is open and transparent, and new commitments have been made through the Equal Futures Partnership to ensure that women and girls can fully participate in politics and pursue opportunity.  And later today, I will discuss our efforts to combat the scourge of human trafficking.

All these things give me hope.  But what gives me the most hope is not the actions of us, not the actions of leaders — it is the people that I’ve seen.  The American troops who have risked their lives and sacrificed their limbs for strangers half a world away; the students in Jakarta or Seoul who are eager to use their knowledge to benefit mankind; the faces in a square in Prague or a parliament in Ghana who see democracy giving voice to their aspirations; the young people in the favelas of Rio and the schools of Mumbai whose eyes shine with promise.  These men, women, and children of every race and every faith remind me that for every angry mob that gets shown on television, there are billions around the world who share similar hopes and dreams.  They tell us that there is a common heartbeat to humanity.

So much attention in our world turns to what divides us.  That’s what we see on the news.  That’s what consumes our political debates.  But when you strip it all away, people everywhere long for the freedom to determine their destiny; the dignity that comes with work; the comfort that comes with faith; and the justice that exists when governments serve their people  — and not the other way around.

The United States of America will always stand up for these aspirations, for our own people and for people all across the world.  That was our founding purpose.  That is what our history shows.  That is what Chris Stevens worked for throughout his life.

And I promise you this:  Long after the killers are brought to justice, Chris Stevens’s legacy will live on in the lives that he touched — in the tens of thousands who marched against violence through the streets of Benghazi; in the Libyans who changed their Facebook photo to one of Chris; in the signs that read, simply, “Chris Stevens was a friend to all Libyans.”

They should give us hope.  They should remind us that so long as we work for it, justice will be done, that history is on our side, and that a rising tide of liberty will never be reversed.

Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

10:16 A.M. EDT

Full Text Campaign Buzz September 13, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Speech at a Campaign Event in Golden, Colorado — Mideast Events Cast Shadow




Mideast Events Cast Shadow on Obama Campaign Event

Source: WH, 9-13-12

President Obama spoke at a campaign event on Thursday in Golden, Colo.

Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

President Obama spoke at a campaign event on Thursday in Golden, Colo.

President Obama on Thursday spent the second day of what was to be an upbeat swing through the politically vital Mountain West balancing a somber tone and political rhetoric….READ MORE

Remarks by the President in Golden, CO

Source: WH, 9-13-12 

Lions Park
Golden, Colorado

11:03 A.M. MDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, Golden!  (Applause.)  Thank you!  (Applause.)

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  We love you!

THE PRESIDENT:  I love you back.  (Applause.)

You know, this is just too pretty.  (Laughter.)  I don’t know how you guys get any work done around here.  (Laughter.)  It is spectacular today.  (Applause.)  Spectacular.  And I notice there’s kind of like a water slide in there — I wanted to try it out, but — (laughter) — Secret Service said no.  (Laughter.)  They would not let me do it.

It is great to be back in Colorado.  Can everybody please give Lisa a big round of applause for that great introduction?  (Applause.)  Not only does she deserve a great introduction — or applause because of the introduction, but also having three kids and one more coming — (laughter) — that deserves some applause. (Applause.)  To all the moms out there.  (Applause.)  That is some work.  And once you get to three, then you’ve got to play zone defense — (laughter) — I don’t even know what to do with four.  (Laughter.)

I am so grateful to be here, and I’m so grateful that Lisa took the time to do this.  I’ve got a couple other friends who are here — first of all, your former senator and outstanding Secretary of the Interior, looking after the natural resources of America — Ken Salazar is in the house.  (Applause.)  Your Mayor, Marjorie Sloan, is here.  (Applause.)

Marjorie, she could not be sweeter.  I mean, she gave me such a nice welcome hug, and informed me that I am the first President to visit this county since Ulysses S. Grant.  Is that correct?  (Applause.)  Now, that’s pretty impressive.  That’s a long time ago, Ulysses S. Grant.  (Laughter.)  Back then you couldn’t even vote.  You guys were still a territory.  (Laughter.)  So I’m glad to put down my marker here.  (Applause.) Absolutely.

Let me say at the outset that obviously our hearts are heavy this week — we had a tough day a couple of days ago, for four Americans were killed in an attack on our diplomatic post in Libya.  Yesterday I had a chance to go over to the State Department to talk to friends and colleagues of those who were killed.  And these were Americans who, like so many others, both in uniform and civilians, who serve in difficult and dangerous places all around the world to advance the interests and the values that we hold dear as Americans.

And a lot of times their work goes unheralded, doesn’t get a lot of attention, but it is vitally important.  We enjoy our security and our liberty because of the sacrifices that they make.  And they do an outstanding job every single day without a lot of fanfare.  (Applause.)

So what I want all of you to know is that we are going to bring those who killed our fellow Americans to justice.  (Applause.)  I want people around the world to hear me:  To all those who would do us harm, no act of terror will go unpunished. It will not dim the light of the values that we proudly present to the rest of the world.  No act of violence shakes the resolve of the United States of America.  (Applause.)

And I’ve directed my administration to do whatever is necessary to protect all Americans who are serving abroad.  It’s one of my highest priorities as President.  And we’re also in contact with other governments to underscore that they’ve got an obligation to cooperate with us to protect our citizens.  That’s part of their job.

Now, I know that it’s difficult sometimes seeing these disturbing images on television, because our world is filled with serious challenges.  This is a tumultuous time that we’re in.  But we can, and we will, meet those challenges if we stay true to who we are, and if we would remind ourselves that we’re different from other nations.  We’re different not only because of the incredible landscape that God has given us; we’re different because we’re a nation that’s bound together by a creed.  We’re not made up of a single tribe or a single religion or a single race.  We’re a collection of people from all around the world who came here because of a certain set of principles — the idea that all men and women are created equal; that we are all endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights.  (Applause.)  That’s what binds us together.  That’s what our flag means.

But we also believe that these are not just American rights. We believe these are universal aspirations, and they’re held by people who live in tiny villages in Libya, prosperous cities in Europe.  That’s our light to the world.  And our task, as the most powerful nation on Earth, is to defend and protect and advance our people, but also to defend and protect and advance those values at home and around the world.  That’s what our troops do.  That’s what our diplomats do.  That’s what our intelligence officers do.  That’s what our citizens do.  That’s what we believe.  Those are the values that we hold to.  (Applause.)

And here in America, there is no more fundamental part of our democracy than the fact that all of you get a say in the decisions that are made about our country’s future.  (Applause.) And that’s why we’re here today.

Over the past few weeks, Colorado, you’ve been offered two very different paths for our future.  You’ve seen their convention, you’ve seen ours, and now you face one big choice.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  We’re with you!  (Laughter and applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Our vision, our fight is to restore the basic bargain that built the largest middle class and the strongest economy the world has ever known  — (applause) — the promise that says hard work will pay off; if you work hard you can make it; that responsibility will be rewarded; that in this country of ours, everybody gets a fair shot and everybody does their fair share and everybody plays by the same rules — from Wall Street to Main Street to Washington, D.C.  (Applause.)

And that basic bargain is why I ran for President in the first place — because I had watched a decade in which too many jobs were being shipped overseas; in which too many families were struggling with costs that kept on going up but paychecks that didn’t; people having to try to cover basic expenses with credit cards and home equity loans just to pay tuition for college or put gas in the car or food on the table.  And then we saw that house of cards that had been built up collapse in the worst recession since the Great Depression, and millions of innocent Americans, including folks here in Colorado, lost their homes and their jobs, their life savings.  And for the last three and a half years, we’ve been fighting to recover from the body blow that we took.

And we’ve made progress.  We’ve made progress.  (Applause.) We were losing 800,000 jobs a month; we’ve created jobs now for the past 30 months.  (Applause.)  We saved an American auto industry on the brink of going under.  (Applause.)  Manufacturing is starting to come back here in the United States.  (Applause.) But we’ve got so much more work to do, because there’s still a lot of folks out there hurting.

And here’s the thing.  I don’t think the best answer for today’s new challenges are the same old sales pitches.  And frankly, that’s what you heard mostly in Tampa.  You heard a long litany of what folks thought was wrong with America, but they didn’t tell you much about what they’d do to make it right.  They wanted your vote, but they didn’t tell you their plan.  (Applause.)  Because basically their plan was one that you had heard before:  If we cut more taxes, everybody is going to be okay — especially if we cut taxes at the top.  Tax cuts in good times.  Tax cuts in bad times.  Tax cuts when we’re at peace.  Tax cuts when we’re at war.  You need to make a restaurant reservation, you don’t need the new iPhone — here’s a tax cut for that.  (Laughter.)  You want to learn a new language?  Try a tax cut.  Tax cut to lose a few extra pounds.  (Laughter.)  Whatever ails you.

Now, I’ve cut taxes for folks who need it — middle-class families, small business owners.  (Applause.)  That’s who needs them.  The typical family has seen their federal income taxes go down — their income tax burden go down by $3,600 since I came into office, because it was important to provide folks who need it relief.  (Applause.)  Small businesses — we cut their taxes 18 times.  (Applause.)

So I want to give tax relief to folks who need it, but I don’t believe another round of tax cuts for millionaires are going to bring good jobs back to our shores.  They’re not going to bring down our deficits.  Just like I don’t believe that firing teachers or kicking students off of financial aid is going to grow our economy, especially when we’ve got to compete with the scientists and engineers that are coming out of China.

And I’ve got to say, Colorado, after all we’ve been through, the idea that we would roll back regulations that we finally put in place on Wall Street to make sure they don’t act recklessly again and bring the economy back to its knees — I don’t think rolling back regulations are going to help the small businesswoman in Jefferson Country, or laid-off construction workers that are trying to get back to work.

Golden, we have been there, we’ve tried that, it didn’t work.  We’re not going back.  We are not going back.  (Applause.) We don’t believe in a top-down, trickle-down economy that says to everybody, “you’re on your own.”  We believe that we’re all in this together.  (Applause.)  We believe that the economy grows from the middle class out, from the bottom up.  (Applause.)  That’s how we move forward.

And I won’t pretend that the path I’m offering is easy.  Bill Clinton reminded us last week, it’s going to take a few more years to deal with all the challenges that we built up over decades.  But when I hear some folks, I guess just for political reasons, saying how America is in decline, they are wrong.  (Applause.)  We still have the world’s best workers in the world. (Applause.)  We’ve got the best researchers and scientists in the world.  We’ve got the best colleges and universities in the world.  (Applause.)  We’ve got the best entrepreneurs in the world.  We’ve got the best democracy in the world.  There is not a country on Earth that wouldn’t trade places with the United States of America.  (Applause.)

Our problems can be solved, and our challenges can be met.  And the path I offer may be harder, but it leads to a better place.  (Applause.)  I’m asking — (sneezes) — I’m getting all choked up.  (Laughter.)  I’m getting all choked up here.

I’m asking you to choose that future.  I am asking you, Colorado, to rally around a set of goals — concrete, achievable goals — to create new manufacturing jobs and new energy sources, to improve education, to bring down our deficit in a balanced, responsible way, to turn a page on a decade of war.  That’s what we can do in the next four years.  (Applause.)  That’s why I’m running for a second term as President of the United States of America.  (Applause.)

AUDIENCE:  Four more years!  Four more years!  Four more years!  Four more years!

THE PRESIDENT:  Now, let me talk about this plan, because you need to know what you’re voting for.  Number one, I’ve got a plan to export more products and outsource fewer jobs.  (Applause.)  After a decade of decline, this country has created over half a million new manufacturing jobs in the last two and a half years.  We reinvented a dying auto industry that’s back on top of the world.

So now you’ve got a choice.  You can follow the other side’s advice and keep giving more tax breaks to companies that ship jobs overseas, or we can start rewarding companies that open new plants and train new workers and create new jobs right here in America.  (Applause.)  We can help big factories and small businesses double their exports.  We can create a million new manufacturing jobs in the next four years.  We can continue to invest in basic science and research so that we maintain our technological edge and commercialize those advances.

That’s how we stay on top.  That’s how we stay number one.  You can make that happen.  That’s what we’re fighting for.  (Applause.)  That’s why I want a second term.  (Applause.)

I’ve got a plan to control more of our own energy.  After 30 years of inaction, we raised fuel standards so that by the middle of the next decade, your cars and trucks will go twice as far on a gallon of gas.  (Applause.)  That saves you money.  It helps our national security.  And it helps to preserve this incredible, beautiful landscape that we’ve got.  (Applause.)

We’ve doubled the amount of renewable energy that we generate from sources like wind and solar power.  Thousands of Americans here in Colorado and all across the country have jobs today building wind turbines and long-lasting batteries, solar panels.  And today, the United States of America is less dependent on foreign oil than any time in nearly two decades.  (Applause.)  That’s what we’ve done.

So now you’ve got a choice.  We can reverse this progress, like the other side has talked about, or we can build on it.  (Applause.)  Now, unlike my opponent, I’m not going to let the oil companies write our energy plan.  (Applause.)  I’m not going to get rid of the wind energy tax credit that is helping to spur this incredibly dynamic sector of our economy.  We’re going to build on this progress.  We need to keep investing in wind and solar — (applause) — and make sure our farmers and scientists are harnessing new biofuels.

Let’s put our construction workers back to work building energy-efficient homes and factories.  (Applause.)  Let’s develop a hundred-year supply of natural gas that’s right beneath our feet.  We can cut our oil imports in half by 2020 and create hundreds of thousands of new jobs all across this country.  That’s the path forward.  That’s why I’m running for a second term.  (Applause.)

I’ve got a plan to give Americans a greater chance to gain the skills they need to compete.  Education was a gateway of opportunity for me.  Let’s face it, a mixed kid from Hawaii born to a single mom is not likely to become President of the United States.  (Applause.)  But in America it can happen because of education, because somebody gave me opportunity.  (Applause.)

You know, a little black girl from the South Side of Chicago, whose mom is a secretary and dad is a blue-collar worker — not likely to become First Lady of the United States.  (Applause.)  But it happens because she got a great education, even though her folks didn’t have a lot of money.

It’s the gateway of opportunity for middle-class families, for those who are willing to work hard to get into the middle class and stay there.  And because of the work we’ve done over the last three and a half years, millions of students are paying less for college today because we took out billions of dollars that was being wasted using banks and lenders as middlemen; we started giving these loans directly to students.  (Applause.)  And now millions more are qualified to get help.  (Applause.)

We set up a tuition tax credit so that middle-class families can get a $10,000 tuition credit over four years to help their kids go to school.

Now we’ve got to build on that progress.  And you’ve got a choice.  The other side, they’re proposing to gut education to pay for more tax breaks for folks like me.


THE PRESIDENT:  Don’t boo, now — vote.  (Applause.)  Vote. (Applause.)

I think we’ve got a better path.  We can decide that in the United States of America, no child should have her dream deferred because of an overcrowded classroom or a crumbling school or outdated textbooks.  And no family should have to set aside a college acceptance letter just because they don’t have the money. No company should have to look for workers in China because they couldn’t find the right skills for folks here in the United States.

So I’m asking you to help me recruit 100,000 new math and science teachers, and improve early childhood education, and get 2 million more workers the chance to go to community colleges to get the skills they need for the jobs that are out there right now.  (Applause.)  And let’s help bring down college and university tuition costs over the next several years.  (Applause.)

We can meet that goal.  You can choose that future for America.  Yes, we can.

AUDIENCE:  Yes, we can.

THE PRESIDENT:  You remember that.  (Applause.)

Now, we can do all this and we can reduce our deficit without sticking it to the middle class.  So I put forward a plan that will reduce our deficit by $4 trillion.  That’s not my opinion; there’s independent analysis that’s been done, this will reduce the deficit by $4 trillion.  I’ve worked with Republicans in Congress already to cut a trillion dollars’ worth of spending, and I’m willing to work with them to do more.  Everybody talks about how partisan everything is.  Listen, I am happy to work with Republicans.  I want their cooperation.  (Applause.)  If they want me, I’ll wash the car, I’ll walk the dog for them — (laughter) — to get a deal done for the American people.

I want to reform our tax code so that it’s simple and so that it’s fair.  There are areas where we should be able to agree.  But here’s the thing I can’t do.  I can’t ask millionaires to do nothing, and then ask everybody else to do a whole lot.  (Applause.)

So I’ve asked, under my plan, the wealthiest households to 0pay a slightly higher rate on their income taxes after the $250,000 threshold — so they’d still get a tax cut for the first $250,000.  That would apply to 100 percent of Americans.  But for that dollar after $250,000 you pay a little bit more — the same rate that you paid under Bill Clinton, the same rate that was in force when our economy created nearly 23 million new jobs, went from deficit to the biggest surplus in history, and we created a lot of millionaires to boot.  (Applause.)

And by the way, I want you to understand why this is important.  If we take that approach where folks like me and Governor Romney are paying a little bit more, then we can keep taxes low for middle-class families — 98 percent of American families make $250,000 or less.  And so we can keep your tax cuts in place and we can still invest in our future.  And here’s the thing — when you’ve got some tax relief, when the firefighter or the teacher or the construction worker or the receptionist — when you guys — when the small businessperson — because 97 percent of small businesses make less than $250,000 — when you have money in your pockets, what do you do?

AUDIENCE:  Spend it.  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Because you have to — right?  Your car is 10 years old, and you’ve got a boiler in the house you got to fix — right?  So there are things you do with the money.  That means, then, businesses have more customers.  That means businesses make more profits and businesses hire more workers, which means, then, the economy gets that much stronger.  That’s how you grow an economy.  Not from the top down; from the bottom up, from the middle out.  That’s how we do it.  (Applause.)  That’s how we’ve always done it.

Now, in fairness, the other side does have a plan also.  But as President Clinton pointed out, it doesn’t have arithmetic in it.  (Laughter.)  Now, keep in mind these are folks who say that their biggest priority is reducing the deficit.  This is a generational obligation, we’ve got to do right by our kids, et cetera.  So what’s their first proposal?  They think that we’re going to lower our deficit by spending trillions of dollars more on new tax breaks for the wealthy.  That doesn’t add up.

When you try to pay for $5 trillion in new tax cuts, there are only so many places you can go.  First of all, you can gut education investments, and investments in research and technology, and we can stop rebuilding our infrastructure.  But even if you do all that, you haven’t come close to $5 trillion.  So eventually, what independent analysis says is that middle-class families are going to have to pay for it.  Or, alternatively, the deficit blows up.

And if you don’t see that math, then you’ve got to go see your teacher after school.  (Laughter.)  You got to go talk to Lisa and get a tutorial.  (Laughter.)

And on top of the $5 trillion tax cut they’re talking about that would give the average person making $3 million a year a $250,000 tax cut, in addition they want to add $2 trillion in new military spending without increasing — they say they’re not going to increase the deficit.  Well, your calculator is going to go out on you if you try to add all that stuff up.  (Laughter.)

So listen, Golden, I refuse to ask middle-class families to pay more so that I pay less.  I refuse to ask students to pay more for college, or kick children out of Head Start programs, or eliminate health insurance for millions of Americans who are poor, or elderly, or disabled, just to pay for tax cuts to the wealthy that we cannot afford.  (Applause.)

And I will not turn Medicare into a voucher just to give tax cuts to the wealthy.  (Applause.)  No American should ever have to spend their golden years at the mercy of insurance companies. They should retire with dignity and respect.  And we’re going to reform and strengthen Medicare for the long haul, but we do it by reducing the cost of health care, by making the health care system smarter so that instead of five tests you get one test, and then it’s emailed everywhere.  And we reduce all the paperwork because we’re enhancing information technologies in the health care system.  And we’re doing more preventive care.  Those are the things that are going to reduce the cost of care.

But we don’t just shift those costs on to seniors and ask them to pay thousands of dollars more.  That’s not right.


THE PRESIDENT:  And we are certainly going to make sure that we keep the promise of Social Security.  (Applause.)  We’ll take responsible steps to strengthen it — but we’re not going to turn it over to Wall Street.  (Applause.)

So we’re going to rebuild our economy.  But our prosperity at home is linked to what we do abroad.  And this week’s events remind us of that.  Four years ago, I promised to end the war in Iraq — and we did.  (Applause.)  I said we’d wind down the war in Afghanistan — and we are.  (Applause.)  And while a new tower rises above the New York skyline, al Qaeda is on the path to defeat, and Osama bin Laden is dead.  (Applause.)

But we see on our televisions that there are still threats in the world, and we’ve got to remain vigilant.  That’s why we have to be relentless in pursuing those who attacked us this week.  That’s also why, so long as I’m Commander-in-Chief, we will sustain the strongest military the world has ever known.  (Applause.)

And that’s why when our troops take off their uniform, we will serve them as well as they’ve served us — because nobody who has fought for us should have to fight for a job or a roof over their heads when they come home.  That is a solemn oath that we have to keep.  (Applause.)

And we will use the money we’re no longer spending on war to pay down our debt, and to put more people back to work rebuilding roads and bridges, schools and runways, helping local communities hire firefighters and police officers and first responders.  Because after a decade of war, it’s time to do some nation-building right here in Colorado, right here in the United States of America.  Let’s put Americans back to work.  (Applause.)

We can do all this.  And the power to do it is where it has always been — in your hands.  I said this at the convention — the election four years ago wasn’t about me; it was about you.  You were the change.  You’re the ones who made it happen.

You’re the reason that there’s a teacher and her husband in Pueblo who can now buy their first home with the help of new tax credits.  (Applause.)  You’re the reason that a woman outside Durango can get the treatment she needs for her breast cancer, now that there are affordable plans to cover preexisting conditions.  (Applause.)

You’re the reason seniors across Colorado are saving an average of nearly $600 every year on prescription drugs because of Obamacare.  And it’s true, I do care.  That’s why we pushed it.  You care.  That’s why we made it happen.    (Applause.)

You’re the reason that a young immigrant who grew up here and went to school here and pledged allegiance to our flag will no longer be deported from the only country she’s ever called home.  (Applause.)  You’re the reason why a selfless soldier won’t be kicked out of the military because of who they are or who they love — we ended “don’t ask, don’t tell.”  (Applause.)  You’re the reason why thousands of families have finally been able to say to their loved ones who served us so bravely:  “Welcome home.”  You made that happen.  (Applause.)

And the only way America keeps moving forward is if you don’t stop.  You can’t buy into the cynicism that the other side is selling.  You can’t let them convince you somehow that change isn’t possible.  If you give up on the idea that your voice makes a difference, then other people rush in to fill the void — the lobbyists, the special interests, the folks who are writing the $10 million checks to run all those negative ads, the folks who are trying to make it harder for you to vote, the Washington politicians who want to decide for you who you can marry or what kind of health care women should get.


THE PRESIDENT:  We can’t let that happen, Colorado.  And that’s why I need your help — because we’ve come too far to turn back now.  We’ve got more good jobs to create.  We’ve got more clean, homegrown energy to generate.  (Applause.)  We’ve got more good schools to build and more great teachers to hire.  (Applause.)  We’ve got more troops to bring home and more veterans to care for.  (Applause.)  And we’ve got more doors of opportunity to open to everybody who is willing to work hard and walk through them — everybody, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, young, old, gay, straight, able — everybody.  That’s what I’m asking — (applause) — that you keep going forward.

That’s why I’m asking for a second term, Colorado.  (Applause.)  And if you’re willing to work with me, and knock on some doors with me, and make some phone calls for me, and vote for me in November, we will win Colorado.  We will win this election.  We will finish what we started.  And we’ll remind the world why the United States of America is the greatest nation on Earth.

God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)

11:37 A.M. MDT

Campaign Buzz May 15, 2012: Former President George W. Bush Endorses Mitt Romney… As Elevator Door Closed — Speaking at Launch of Presidential Center’s “Freedom Collection”


By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University. Ms. Goodman has also contributed the overviews, and chronologies in History of American Presidential Elections, 1789-2008, 4th edition, edited by Gil Troy, Fred L. Israel, and Arthur Meier Schlesinger to be published by Facts on File, Inc. in late 2011.


Former President George W. Bush is pictured.
Bush spoke Tuesday in Washington at an event for his presidential institute. | AP Photo


George W. Bush offers quick support to Mitt Romney: George W. Bush is backing presumptive Republican White House nominee Mitt Romney.
The former president offered a four-word endorsement of Romney as the doors of his elevator were closing after a speech Tuesday in Washington. Bush said:
“I’m for Mitt Romney.”
ABC News caught Bush after the speech, prompting his unscripted, but not surprising, endorsement.
Bush’s parents, former President George H.W. Bush and Barbara Bush, endorsed Romney in March. Former Florida governor Jeb Bush also publicly backed Romney.
Since leaving office in January 2009, George W. Bush has tried to avoid politics…. – AP, 5-16-12

  • Bush Dips a Toe Back Into Washington: After keeping a low profile since leaving office, former President George W. Bush is starting to speak out again on issues he hopes will define his legacy…. – NYT, 5-15-12
  • George W. Bush endorses Mitt Romney: ABC News caught up with former president George W. Bush in an elevator in downtown Washington on Tuesday and asked the question that elicited the sound bite. “I’m for Mitt Romney,” Bush said, just as the doors slid shut…. – WaPo, 5-15-12
  • George W. Bush, elevators, and the art of the tepid Romney endorsement: “I’m for Mitt Romney,” said George W. Bush, as the elevator doors closed on him. It’s amazing how much air you can take out of any announcement by inserting “as the elevator doors closed.” “Give me liberty or give me…. – WaPo, 5-15-12
  • George W. Bush voices support for Romney: Former President George W. Bush voiced his support for Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign for the first time today, ABC News reports.
    In a decidedly underwhelming fashion, the former president said to a reporter, “I’m for Mitt Romney,” as the doors of an elevator closed on him. Mr. Bush was in Washington to deliver a speech on freedom and democracy at the George W. Bush Presidential Center.
    Andrea Saul, a spokesman for the Romney campaign, said of the latest unofficial endorsement, “We welcome the president’s support, as we welcomed his father’s.”
    She added that Romney does not have any scheduled appearances with Mr. Bush, noting that the former president made clear when he left office that he was not going to engage in political campaigns…. – CBS News, 5-15-12
  • George W. Bush: ‘I’m for Mitt Romney’: Former President George W. Bush speaks during the “Celebration of Human Freedom” event in Washington on Tuesday. President George W. Bush offered up his endorsement of Mitt Romney. It was in an elevator — as the doors were closing…. – WSJ, 5-15-12
  • What’s Behind George W. Bush’s Odd Romney Endorsement?: The former president blurted out his support for his party’s nominee — only to be greeted with silence in return.
    George W. Bush’s endorsement of Mitt Romney on Tuesday appears to have been unplanned. The former president had just given a speech on human rights in Washington, and afterward, Matt Negrin, a reporter for ABC News, followed him to the elevator and asked who he’s supporting in the election in November.
    “I’m for Mitt Romney,” Bush said, as the elevator doors inched closed.
    Well, sure he is. What else was he supposed to say? But it was beyond strange to see a former two-term Republican president slide his support for his party’s presumptive nominee under — or, rather, through — the door in this manner. And Romney’s response was even stranger: silence. The Romney campaign didn’t respond to a request for comment on the Bush endorsement, and Romney didn’t mention it in his post-endorsement speech Tuesday in Iowa. (A campaign spokeswoman told the New York Observer that Romney was “proud” to have Bush’s support, but did not expect to campaign with him.)…. – The Atlantic, 5-15-12
  • Can George W. Bush’s tepid Romney endorsement finally unseat Daniels?: In what may be the final face-off in the Ticket’s Romney tepid endorsement playoffs, we’re pitting former President George W. Bush against three-time champion Mitch Daniels for the title. Bush, asked for his position on the election by ABC News after a speech in Washington, D.C. Tuesday, merely stated that “I’m for Mitt Romney.” In a poetic touch, he said so just as the door of the elevator he was riding closed…. – ABC News, 5-15-12

Bush touts Arab spring, says US can’t fear freedom: Former President George W. Bush on Tuesday praised the Arab spring movement and said the U.S. shouldn’t fear the spread of freedom, even if it doesn’t know what policies newly liberated countries will pursue.
“America does not get to choose if a freedom revolution should begin or end in the Middle East or elsewhere,” Bush said. “It only gets to choose what side it is on.”
And the U.S., Bush said, should always be on the side of freedom.
The former president remarks came at event marking the launch of his presidential institute’s “Freedom Collection.” The event also featured brief remarks by his wife, former first lady Laura Bush, and a question-and-answer session by video with Myanmar democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi…. – AP, 5-15-12

  • George W. Bush touts Arab spring, says U.S. can’t fear freedom: President George W. Bush had plenty to say about freedom during a rare public speech Tuesday — he uttered the word about two dozen times — but noticeably absent was a single mention of Afghanistan or Iraq, or of President Barack Obama….- Politico, 5-15-12
  • George W. Bush: US must stand with dissidents: Former president George W. Bush said Tuesday that the United States must stand with dissidents and democracy activists around the world even if the change they sow makes things more difficult in the short run…. – USA Today, 5-15-12
  • Bush Celebrates Democracy Activists, Sides With Syrian Resistance: As President George W. Bush quietly returned to Washington today, he brought along a slew of global democracy activists known mostly for never being quiet. Today’s line-up at the George W. Bush Presidential Center sponsored event…. – ABC News, 5-15-12
  • George W. Bush praises Arab spring: Former President George W. Bush praised the Arab spring movement on Tuesday and said the US shouldn’t fear the spread of freedom, even if it doesn’t know what policies newly liberated countries will pursue…. – Fort Worth Star Telegram, 5-15-12

Aung San Suu Kyi Joins President and Mrs. Bush via Video at Human Freedom Event in Washington, D.C.

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

Source: George W. Bush Presidential Center, 5-25-12

President George W. Bush today praised the courage of dissidents around the world and called on America to stand with them by choosing the side of freedom. Joined by leading voices of liberty, President Bush delivered his remarks at the Celebration of Freedom, a special event in Washington, D.C., to showcase the Freedom Collection, a collection of inspiring interviews of global freedom activists compiled by the George W. Bush Institute.

“These are extraordinary times in the history of freedom,” said President George W. Bush. “In the Arab Spring, we have seen the broadest challenge to authoritarian rule since the collapse of Soviet communism. Great change has come to a region where many thought it impossible. The idea that Arab people are somehow content with oppression has been discredited forever. Yet we have also seen instability, uncertainty, and the revenge of brutal rulers. The collapse of an old order can unleash resentments and power struggles that a new order is not yet prepared to handle. But there is a reason for the momentum of liberty across the centuries:  human beings were not designed for servitude. They were created for better things. And the human soul is forever restless until it rests in freedom.

Freedom advocates from around the world whose stories are part of the Freedom Collection were in attendance at the standing-room only event, including: Ammar Abdulhamid, Syria; Rodrigo Diamanti, Venezuela; Bob Fu, China; Marcel Granier, Venezuela; Normando Hernandez, Cuba; Wei Jingsheng, China; Cristal-Montanez Baylor, Venezuela; Ahmed Samih, Egypt; Mohsen Sazegara, Iran; Doan Viet Hoat, Vietnam; and Cheery Zahau, Burma.

“Today we are pleased to recognize Facebook as a social media partner on the Freedom Collection,” said James K. Glassman, founding executive director of the George W. Bush Institute. “Through Facebook, we are extending the reach of the Freedom Collection and the Bush Center’s efforts to promote liberty by documenting and sharing the global struggle for human freedom. Having a strong presence on Facebook will enable us to promote openness, invite conversation, and foster greater debate and understanding.”

Following President Bush’s speech, Mrs. Laura Bush was introduced by ChinaAid Association founder Xiqiu “Bob” Fu. Mrs. Bush introduced Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who joined via video conference, saying, “Her example shows people everywhere that political isolation and prison cannot silence the call for liberty.”

Aung San Suu Kyi, who responded to questions the Bush Center had collected via Facebook, said, “There should be no political prisoners in Burma if we are really headed for democratization.” In response to a request for a message to the people of Syria, she said, “We are with you in your desire for freedom and in your struggle for freedom.”

During Tuesday’s event, the Bush Center also received key artifacts for inclusion in the Freedom Collection from Martin Palous, Director of the Vaclav Havel Library. The items include an original carbon copy of the Declaration of Charter 77, the 1977 independent initiative calling for the communist government of Czechoslovakia to respect fundamental human rights, Havel’s letter nominating three Cuban dissidents for the Nobel Peace Prize, and a volume of texts and speeches signed by Havel.

Available online at www.FreedomCollection.org, the Freedom Collection uses video interviews to document the personal stories of brave men and women who have led or participated in freedom movements from the 20th century to the present day. It also includes a physical archive containing documents and artifacts from major freedom movements, including an early draft of the Tibetan Constitution given to President Bush by His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

The addition of these items from the Vaclav Havel Library will provide further inspiration and insight for the current generation of freedom advocates. As part of the Bush Institute’s Human Freedom initiative, the Freedom Collection helps to combat the feeling of isolation that can be common among dissidents by sharing the stories of those who have gone before in the struggle for freedom. It also expands moral and practical support from the United States and other free societies for those still seeking liberty.


Remarks by President Bush: The Arab Spring and American Ideals

Source: George W. Bush Presidential Center, 5-22-12

The below article by President George W. Bush was published in the Wall Street Journal on May 18, 2012 and was adapted from a speech he delivered May 15, 2012 at the Bush Institute’s Celebration of Human Freedom. The event celebrated the brave efforts of dissidents and activists around the world in their fight to be free. The Bush Institute’s Human Freedom Initiative seeks to extend the reach of freedom around the world by fostering democracy and supporting today’s freedom advocates through programs such as the Freedom Collection, unveiled earlier this spring.

The op-ed can be found on the Wall Street Journal online here.

George W. Bush: The Arab Spring and American Ideals

We do not get to choose if a freedom revolution should begin or end in the Middle East or elsewhere. We only get to choose what side we are on.

These are extraordinary times in the history of freedom. In the Arab Spring, we have seen the broadest challenge to authoritarian rule since the collapse of Soviet communism. The idea that Arab peoples are somehow content with oppression has been discredited forever.

Yet we have also seen instability, uncertainty and the revenge of brutal rulers. The collapse of an old order can unleash resentments and power struggles that a new order is not yet prepared to handle.

Some in both parties in Washington look at the risks inherent in democratic change—particularly in the Middle East and North Africa—and find the dangers too great. America, they argue, should be content with supporting the flawed leaders they know in the name of stability.

But in the long run, this foreign policy approach is not realistic. It is not within the power of America to indefinitely preserve the old order, which is inherently unstable. Oppressive governments distrust the diffusion of choice and power, choking off the best source of national prosperity and success.

This is the inbuilt crisis of tyranny. It fears and fights the very human attributes that make a nation great: creativity, enterprise and responsibility. Dictators can maintain power for a time by feeding resentments toward enemies—internal or external, real or imagined. But eventually, in societies of scarcity and mediocrity, their failure becomes evident.

America does not get to choose if a freedom revolution should begin or end in the Middle East or elsewhere. It only gets to choose what side it is on.

The day when a dictator falls or yields to a democratic movement is glorious. The years of transition that follow can be difficult. People forget that this was true in Central Europe, where democratic institutions and attitudes did not spring up overnight. From time to time, there has been corruption, backsliding and nostalgia for the communist past. Essential economic reforms have sometimes proved painful and unpopular.

It takes courage to ignite a freedom revolution. But it also takes courage to secure a freedom revolution through structural reform. And both types of bravery deserve our support.

This is now the challenge in parts of North Africa and the Middle East. After the euphoria, nations must deal with questions of tremendous complexity: What effect will majority rule have on the rights of women and religious minorities? How can militias be incorporated into a national army? What should be the relationship between a central government and regional authorities?

Problems once kept submerged by force must now be resolved by politics and consensus. But political institutions and traditions are often weak.

We know the problems. But there is a source of hope. The people of North Africa and the Middle East now realize that their leaders are not invincible. Citizens of the region have developed habits of dissent and expectations of economic performance. Future rulers who ignore those expectations—who try returning to oppression and blame shifting—may find an accountability of their own.

As Americans, our goal should be to help reformers turn the end of tyranny into durable, accountable civic structures. Emerging democracies need strong constitutions, political parties committed to pluralism, and free elections. Free societies depend upon the rule of law and property rights, and they require hopeful economies, drawn into open world markets.

This work will require patience, creativity and active American leadership. It will involve the strengthening of civil society—with a particular emphasis on the role of women. It will require a consistent defense of religious liberty. It will mean the encouragement of development, education and health, as well as trade and foreign investment. There will certainly be setbacks. But if America does not support the advance of democratic institutions and values, who will?

In promoting freedom, our methods should be flexible. Change comes at different paces in different places. Yet flexibility does not mean ambiguity. The same principles must apply to all nations. As a country embraces freedom, it finds economic and social progress. Only when a government treats its people with dignity does a nation fulfill its greatness. And when a government violates the rights of a citizen, it dishonors an entire nation.

There is nothing easy about the achievement of freedom. In America, we know something about the difficulty of protecting minorities, of building a national army, of defining the relationship between the central government and regional authorities—because we faced all of those challenges on the day of our independence. And they nearly tore us apart. It took many decades of struggle to live up to our own ideals. But we never ceased believing in the power of those ideals—and we should not today.

Full Text: President Barack Obama’s Arab Spring Speech — Asserting Israel Must Adopt Pre-1967 Borders


Remarks by the President on the Middle East and North Africa

Moment of Opportunity: American Diplomacy in the Middle East & North Africa
May 19, 2011 1:19 PM

Moment of Opportunity: American Diplomacy in the Middle East & North Africa

State Department, Washington, DC

12:15 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you very much. Thank you. Please, have a seat. Thank you very much. I want to begin by thanking Hillary Clinton, who has traveled so much these last six months that she is approaching a new landmark — one million frequent flyer miles. (Laughter.) I count on Hillary every single day, and I believe that she will go down as one of the finest Secretaries of State in our nation’s history.

The State Department is a fitting venue to mark a new chapter in American diplomacy. For six months, we have witnessed an extraordinary change taking place in the Middle East and North Africa. Square by square, town by town, country by country, the people have risen up to demand their basic human rights. Two leaders have stepped aside. More may follow. And though these countries may be a great distance from our shores, we know that our own future is bound to this region by the forces of economics and security, by history and by faith.

Today, I want to talk about this change — the forces that are driving it and how we can respond in a way that advances our values and strengthens our security.

Now, already, we’ve done much to shift our foreign policy following a decade defined by two costly conflicts. After years of war in Iraq, we’ve removed 100,000 American troops and ended our combat mission there. In Afghanistan, we’ve broken the Taliban’s momentum, and this July we will begin to bring our troops home and continue a transition to Afghan lead. And after years of war against al Qaeda and its affiliates, we have dealt al Qaeda a huge blow by killing its leader, Osama bin Laden.

Bin Laden was no martyr. He was a mass murderer who offered a message of hate –- an insistence that Muslims had to take up arms against the West, and that violence against men, women and children was the only path to change. He rejected democracy and individual rights for Muslims in favor of violent extremism; his agenda focused on what he could destroy -– not what he could build.

Bin Laden and his murderous vision won some adherents. But even before his death, al Qaeda was losing its struggle for relevance, as the overwhelming majority of people saw that the slaughter of innocents did not answer their cries for a better life. By the time we found bin Laden, al Qaeda’s agenda had come to be seen by the vast majority of the region as a dead end, and the people of the Middle East and North Africa had taken their future into their own hands.

That story of self-determination began six months ago in Tunisia. On December 17th, a young vendor named Mohammed Bouazizi was devastated when a police officer confiscated his cart. This was not unique. It’s the same kind of humiliation that takes place every day in many parts of the world -– the relentless tyranny of governments that deny their citizens dignity. Only this time, something different happened. After local officials refused to hear his complaints, this young man, who had never been particularly active in politics, went to the headquarters of the provincial government, doused himself in fuel, and lit himself on fire.

There are times in the course of history when the actions of ordinary citizens spark movements for change because they speak to a longing for freedom that has been building up for years. In America, think of the defiance of those patriots in Boston who refused to pay taxes to a King, or the dignity of Rosa Parks as she sat courageously in her seat. So it was in Tunisia, as that vendor’s act of desperation tapped into the frustration felt throughout the country. Hundreds of protesters took to the streets, then thousands. And in the face of batons and sometimes bullets, they refused to go home –- day after day, week after week — until a dictator of more than two decades finally left power.

The story of this revolution, and the ones that followed, should not have come as a surprise. The nations of the Middle East and North Africa won their independence long ago, but in too many places their people did not. In too many countries, power has been concentrated in the hands of a few. In too many countries, a citizen like that young vendor had nowhere to turn -– no honest judiciary to hear his case; no independent media to give him voice; no credible political party to represent his views; no free and fair election where he could choose his leader.

And this lack of self-determination –- the chance to make your life what you will –- has applied to the region’s economy as well. Yes, some nations are blessed with wealth in oil and gas, and that has led to pockets of prosperity. But in a global economy based on knowledge, based on innovation, no development strategy can be based solely upon what comes out of the ground. Nor can people reach their potential when you cannot start a business without paying a bribe.

In the face of these challenges, too many leaders in the region tried to direct their people’s grievances elsewhere. The West was blamed as the source of all ills, a half-century after the end of colonialism. Antagonism toward Israel became the only acceptable outlet for political expression. Divisions of tribe, ethnicity and religious sect were manipulated as a means of holding on to power, or taking it away from somebody else.

But the events of the past six months show us that strategies of repression and strategies of diversion will not work anymore. Satellite television and the Internet provide a window into the wider world -– a world of astonishing progress in places like India and Indonesia and Brazil. Cell phones and social networks allow young people to connect and organize like never before. And so a new generation has emerged. And their voices tell us that change cannot be denied.

In Cairo, we heard the voice of the young mother who said, “It’s like I can finally breathe fresh air for the first time.”

In Sanaa, we heard the students who chanted, “The night must come to an end.”

In Benghazi, we heard the engineer who said, “Our words are free now. It’s a feeling you can’t explain.”

In Damascus, we heard the young man who said, “After the first yelling, the first shout, you feel dignity.”

Those shouts of human dignity are being heard across the region. And through the moral force of nonviolence, the people of the region have achieved more change in six months than terrorists have accomplished in decades.

Of course, change of this magnitude does not come easily. In our day and age -– a time of 24-hour news cycles and constant communication –- people expect the transformation of the region to be resolved in a matter of weeks. But it will be years before this story reaches its end. Along the way, there will be good days and there will bad days. In some places, change will be swift; in others, gradual. And as we’ve already seen, calls for change may give way, in some cases, to fierce contests for power.

The question before us is what role America will play as this story unfolds. For decades, the United States has pursued a set of core interests in the region: countering terrorism and stopping the spread of nuclear weapons; securing the free flow of commerce and safe-guarding the security of the region; standing up for Israel’s security and pursuing Arab-Israeli peace.

We will continue to do these things, with the firm belief that America’s interests are not hostile to people’s hopes; they’re essential to them. We believe that no one benefits from a nuclear arms race in the region, or al Qaeda’s brutal attacks. We believe people everywhere would see their economies crippled by a cut-off in energy supplies. As we did in the Gulf War, we will not tolerate aggression across borders, and we will keep our commitments to friends and partners.

Yet we must acknowledge that a strategy based solely upon the narrow pursuit of these interests will not fill an empty stomach or allow someone to speak their mind. Moreover, failure to speak to the broader aspirations of ordinary people will only feed the suspicion that has festered for years that the United States pursues our interests at their expense. Given that this mistrust runs both ways –- as Americans have been seared by hostage-taking and violent rhetoric and terrorist attacks that have killed thousands of our citizens -– a failure to change our approach threatens a deepening spiral of division between the United States and the Arab world.

And that’s why, two years ago in Cairo, I began to broaden our engagement based upon mutual interests and mutual respect. I believed then -– and I believe now -– that we have a stake not just in the stability of nations, but in the self-determination of individuals. The status quo is not sustainable. Societies held together by fear and repression may offer the illusion of stability for a time, but they are built upon fault lines that will eventually tear asunder.

So we face a historic opportunity. We have the chance to show that America values the dignity of the street vendor in Tunisia more than the raw power of the dictator. There must be no doubt that the United States of America welcomes change that advances self-determination and opportunity. Yes, there will be perils that accompany this moment of promise. But after decades of accepting the world as it is in the region, we have a chance to pursue the world as it should be.

Of course, as we do, we must proceed with a sense of humility. It’s not America that put people into the streets of Tunis or Cairo -– it was the people themselves who launched these movements, and it’s the people themselves that must ultimately determine their outcome.

Not every country will follow our particular form of representative democracy, and there will be times when our short-term interests don’t align perfectly with our long-term vision for the region. But we can, and we will, speak out for a set of core principles –- principles that have guided our response to the events over the past six months:

The United States opposes the use of violence and repression against the people of the region. (Applause.)

The United States supports a set of universal rights. And these rights include free speech, the freedom of peaceful assembly, the freedom of religion, equality for men and women under the rule of law, and the right to choose your own leaders -– whether you live in Baghdad or Damascus, Sanaa or Tehran.

And we support political and economic reform in the Middle East and North Africa that can meet the legitimate aspirations of ordinary people throughout the region.

Our support for these principles is not a secondary interest. Today I want to make it clear that it is a top priority that must be translated into concrete actions, and supported by all of the diplomatic, economic and strategic tools at our disposal.

Let me be specific. First, it will be the policy of the United States to promote reform across the region, and to support transitions to democracy. That effort begins in Egypt and Tunisia, where the stakes are high -– as Tunisia was at the vanguard of this democratic wave, and Egypt is both a longstanding partner and the Arab world’s largest nation. Both nations can set a strong example through free and fair elections, a vibrant civil society, accountable and effective democratic institutions, and responsible regional leadership. But our support must also extend to nations where transitions have yet to take place.

Unfortunately, in too many countries, calls for change have thus far been answered by violence. The most extreme example is Libya, where Muammar Qaddafi launched a war against his own people, promising to hunt them down like rats. As I said when the United States joined an international coalition to intervene, we cannot prevent every injustice perpetrated by a regime against its people, and we have learned from our experience in Iraq just how costly and difficult it is to try to impose regime change by force -– no matter how well-intentioned it may be.

But in Libya, we saw the prospect of imminent massacre, we had a mandate for action, and heard the Libyan people’s call for help. Had we not acted along with our NATO allies and regional coalition partners, thousands would have been killed. The message would have been clear: Keep power by killing as many people as it takes. Now, time is working against Qaddafi. He does not have control over his country. The opposition has organized a legitimate and credible Interim Council. And when Qaddafi inevitably leaves or is forced from power, decades of provocation will come to an end, and the transition to a democratic Libya can proceed.

While Libya has faced violence on the greatest scale, it’s not the only place where leaders have turned to repression to remain in power. Most recently, the Syrian regime has chosen the path of murder and the mass arrests of its citizens. The United States has condemned these actions, and working with the international community we have stepped up our sanctions on the Syrian regime –- including sanctions announced yesterday on President Assad and those around him.

The Syrian people have shown their courage in demanding a transition to democracy. President Assad now has a choice: He can lead that transition, or get out of the way. The Syrian government must stop shooting demonstrators and allow peaceful protests. It must release political prisoners and stop unjust arrests. It must allow human rights monitors to have access to cities like Dara’a; and start a serious dialogue to advance a democratic transition. Otherwise, President Assad and his regime will continue to be challenged from within and will continue to be isolated abroad.

So far, Syria has followed its Iranian ally, seeking assistance from Tehran in the tactics of suppression. And this speaks to the hypocrisy of the Iranian regime, which says it stand for the rights of protesters abroad, yet represses its own people at home. Let’s remember that the first peaceful protests in the region were in the streets of Tehran, where the government brutalized women and men, and threw innocent people into jail. We still hear the chants echo from the rooftops of Tehran. The image of a young woman dying in the streets is still seared in our memory. And we will continue to insist that the Iranian people deserve their universal rights, and a government that does not smother their aspirations.

Now, our opposition to Iran’s intolerance and Iran’s repressive measures, as well as its illicit nuclear program and its support of terror, is well known. But if America is to be credible, we must acknowledge that at times our friends in the region have not all reacted to the demands for consistent change — with change that’s consistent with the principles that I’ve outlined today. That’s true in Yemen, where President Saleh needs to follow through on his commitment to transfer power. And that’s true today in Bahrain.

Bahrain is a longstanding partner, and we are committed to its security. We recognize that Iran has tried to take advantage of the turmoil there, and that the Bahraini government has a legitimate interest in the rule of law.

Nevertheless, we have insisted both publicly and privately that mass arrests and brute force are at odds with the universal rights of Bahrain’s citizens, and we will — and such steps will not make legitimate calls for reform go away. The only way forward is for the government and opposition to engage in a dialogue, and you can’t have a real dialogue when parts of the peaceful opposition are in jail. (Applause.) The government must create the conditions for dialogue, and the opposition must participate to forge a just future for all Bahrainis.

Indeed, one of the broader lessons to be drawn from this period is that sectarian divides need not lead to conflict. In Iraq, we see the promise of a multiethnic, multisectarian democracy. The Iraqi people have rejected the perils of political violence in favor of a democratic process, even as they’ve taken full responsibility for their own security. Of course, like all new democracies, they will face setbacks. But Iraq is poised to play a key role in the region if it continues its peaceful progress. And as they do, we will be proud to stand with them as a steadfast partner.

So in the months ahead, America must use all our influence to encourage reform in the region. Even as we acknowledge that each country is different, we need to speak honestly about the principles that we believe in, with friend and foe alike. Our message is simple: If you take the risks that reform entails, you will have the full support of the United States.

We must also build on our efforts to broaden our engagement beyond elites, so that we reach the people who will shape the future -– particularly young people. We will continue to make good on the commitments that I made in Cairo -– to build networks of entrepreneurs and expand exchanges in education, to foster cooperation in science and technology, and combat disease. Across the region, we intend to provide assistance to civil society, including those that may not be officially sanctioned, and who speak uncomfortable truths. And we will use the technology to connect with -– and listen to –- the voices of the people.

For the fact is, real reform does not come at the ballot box alone. Through our efforts we must support those basic rights to speak your mind and access information. We will support open access to the Internet, and the right of journalists to be heard -– whether it’s a big news organization or a lone blogger. In the 21st century, information is power, the truth cannot be hidden, and the legitimacy of governments will ultimately depend on active and informed citizens.

Such open discourse is important even if what is said does not square with our worldview. Let me be clear, America respects the right of all peaceful and law-abiding voices to be heard, even if we disagree with them. And sometimes we profoundly disagree with them.

We look forward to working with all who embrace genuine and inclusive democracy. What we will oppose is an attempt by any group to restrict the rights of others, and to hold power through coercion and not consent. Because democracy depends not only on elections, but also strong and accountable institutions, and the respect for the rights of minorities.

Such tolerance is particularly important when it comes to religion. In Tahrir Square, we heard Egyptians from all walks of life chant, “Muslims, Christians, we are one.” America will work to see that this spirit prevails -– that all faiths are respected, and that bridges are built among them. In a region that was the birthplace of three world religions, intolerance can lead only to suffering and stagnation. And for this season of change to succeed, Coptic Christians must have the right to worship freely in Cairo, just as Shia must never have their mosques destroyed in Bahrain.

What is true for religious minorities is also true when it comes to the rights of women. History shows that countries are more prosperous and more peaceful when women are empowered. And that’s why we will continue to insist that universal rights apply to women as well as men -– by focusing assistance on child and maternal health; by helping women to teach, or start a business; by standing up for the right of women to have their voices heard, and to run for office. The region will never reach its full potential when more than half of its population is prevented from achieving their full potential. (Applause.)

Now, even as we promote political reform, even as we promote human rights in the region, our efforts can’t stop there. So the second way that we must support positive change in the region is through our efforts to advance economic development for nations that are transitioning to democracy.

After all, politics alone has not put protesters into the streets. The tipping point for so many people is the more constant concern of putting food on the table and providing for a family. Too many people in the region wake up with few expectations other than making it through the day, perhaps hoping that their luck will change. Throughout the region, many young people have a solid education, but closed economies leave them unable to find a job. Entrepreneurs are brimming with ideas, but corruption leaves them unable to profit from those ideas.

The greatest untapped resource in the Middle East and North Africa is the talent of its people. In the recent protests, we see that talent on display, as people harness technology to move the world. It’s no coincidence that one of the leaders of Tahrir Square was an executive for Google. That energy now needs to be channeled, in country after country, so that economic growth can solidify the accomplishments of the street. For just as democratic revolutions can be triggered by a lack of individual opportunity, successful democratic transitions depend upon an expansion of growth and broad-based prosperity.

So, drawing from what we’ve learned around the world, we think it’s important to focus on trade, not just aid; on investment, not just assistance. The goal must be a model in which protectionism gives way to openness, the reigns of commerce pass from the few to the many, and the economy generates jobs for the young. America’s support for democracy will therefore be based on ensuring financial stability, promoting reform, and integrating competitive markets with each other and the global economy. And we’re going to start with Tunisia and Egypt.

First, we’ve asked the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to present a plan at next week’s G8 summit for what needs to be done to stabilize and modernize the economies of Tunisia and Egypt. Together, we must help them recover from the disruptions of their democratic upheaval, and support the governments that will be elected later this year. And we are urging other countries to help Egypt and Tunisia meet its near-term financial needs.

Second, we do not want a democratic Egypt to be saddled by the debts of its past. So we will relieve a democratic Egypt of up to $1 billion in debt, and work with our Egyptian partners to invest these resources to foster growth and entrepreneurship. We will help Egypt regain access to markets by guaranteeing $1 billion in borrowing that is needed to finance infrastructure and job creation. And we will help newly democratic governments recover assets that were stolen.

Third, we’re working with Congress to create Enterprise Funds to invest in Tunisia and Egypt. And these will be modeled on funds that supported the transitions in Eastern Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall. OPIC will soon launch a $2 billion facility to support private investment across the region. And we will work with the allies to refocus the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development so that it provides the same support for democratic transitions and economic modernization in the Middle East and North Africa as it has in Europe.

Fourth, the United States will launch a comprehensive Trade and Investment Partnership Initiative in the Middle East and North Africa. If you take out oil exports, this entire region of over 400 million people exports roughly the same amount as Switzerland. So we will work with the EU to facilitate more trade within the region, build on existing agreements to promote integration with U.S. and European markets, and open the door for those countries who adopt high standards of reform and trade liberalization to construct a regional trade arrangement. And just as EU membership served as an incentive for reform in Europe, so should the vision of a modern and prosperous economy create a powerful force for reform in the Middle East and North Africa.

Prosperity also requires tearing down walls that stand in the way of progress -– the corruption of elites who steal from their people; the red tape that stops an idea from becoming a business; the patronage that distributes wealth based on tribe or sect. We will help governments meet international obligations, and invest efforts at anti-corruption — by working with parliamentarians who are developing reforms, and activists who use technology to increase transparency and hold government accountable. Politics and human rights; economic reform.

Let me conclude by talking about another cornerstone of our approach to the region, and that relates to the pursuit of peace.

For decades, the conflict between Israelis and Arabs has cast a shadow over the region. For Israelis, it has meant living with the fear that their children could be blown up on a bus or by rockets fired at their homes, as well as the pain of knowing that other children in the region are taught to hate them. For Palestinians, it has meant suffering the humiliation of occupation, and never living in a nation of their own. Moreover, this conflict has come with a larger cost to the Middle East, as it impedes partnerships that could bring greater security and prosperity and empowerment to ordinary people.

For over two years, my administration has worked with the parties and the international community to end this conflict, building on decades of work by previous administrations. Yet expectations have gone unmet. Israeli settlement activity continues. Palestinians have walked away from talks. The world looks at a conflict that has grinded on and on and on, and sees nothing but stalemate. Indeed, there are those who argue that with all the change and uncertainty in the region, it is simply not possible to move forward now.

I disagree. At a time when the people of the Middle East and North Africa are casting off the burdens of the past, the drive for a lasting peace that ends the conflict and resolves all claims is more urgent than ever. That’s certainly true for the two parties involved.

For the Palestinians, efforts to delegitimize Israel will end in failure. Symbolic actions to isolate Israel at the United Nations in September won’t create an independent state. Palestinian leaders will not achieve peace or prosperity if Hamas insists on a path of terror and rejection. And Palestinians will never realize their independence by denying the right of Israel to exist.

As for Israel, our friendship is rooted deeply in a shared history and shared values. Our commitment to Israel’s security is unshakeable. And we will stand against attempts to single it out for criticism in international forums. But precisely because of our friendship, it’s important that we tell the truth: The status quo is unsustainable, and Israel too must act boldly to advance a lasting peace.

The fact is, a growing number of Palestinians live west of the Jordan River. Technology will make it harder for Israel to defend itself. A region undergoing profound change will lead to populism in which millions of people -– not just one or two leaders — must believe peace is possible. The international community is tired of an endless process that never produces an outcome. The dream of a Jewish and democratic state cannot be fulfilled with permanent occupation.

Now, ultimately, it is up to the Israelis and Palestinians to take action. No peace can be imposed upon them — not by the United States; not by anybody else. But endless delay won’t make the problem go away. What America and the international community can do is to state frankly what everyone knows — a lasting peace will involve two states for two peoples: Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland for the Jewish people, and the state of Palestine as the homeland for the Palestinian people, each state enjoying self-determination, mutual recognition, and peace.

So while the core issues of the conflict must be negotiated, the basis of those negotiations is clear: a viable Palestine, a secure Israel. The United States believes that negotiations should result in two states, with permanent Palestinian borders with Israel, Jordan, and Egypt, and permanent Israeli borders with Palestine. We believe the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states. The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their full potential, in a sovereign and contiguous state.

As for security, every state has the right to self-defense, and Israel must be able to defend itself -– by itself -– against any threat. Provisions must also be robust enough to prevent a resurgence of terrorism, to stop the infiltration of weapons, and to provide effective border security. The full and phased withdrawal of Israeli military forces should be coordinated with the assumption of Palestinian security responsibility in a sovereign, non-militarized state. And the duration of this transition period must be agreed, and the effectiveness of security arrangements must be demonstrated.

These principles provide a foundation for negotiations. Palestinians should know the territorial outlines of their state; Israelis should know that their basic security concerns will be met. I’m aware that these steps alone will not resolve the conflict, because two wrenching and emotional issues will remain: the future of Jerusalem, and the fate of Palestinian refugees. But moving forward now on the basis of territory and security provides a foundation to resolve those two issues in a way that is just and fair, and that respects the rights and aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians.

Now, let me say this: Recognizing that negotiations need to begin with the issues of territory and security does not mean that it will be easy to come back to the table. In particular, the recent announcement of an agreement between Fatah and Hamas raises profound and legitimate questions for Israel: How can one negotiate with a party that has shown itself unwilling to recognize your right to exist? And in the weeks and months to come, Palestinian leaders will have to provide a credible answer to that question. Meanwhile, the United States, our Quartet partners, and the Arab states will need to continue every effort to get beyond the current impasse.

I recognize how hard this will be. Suspicion and hostility has been passed on for generations, and at times it has hardened. But I’m convinced that the majority of Israelis and Palestinians would rather look to the future than be trapped in the past. We see that spirit in the Israeli father whose son was killed by Hamas, who helped start an organization that brought together Israelis and Palestinians who had lost loved ones. That father said, “I gradually realized that the only hope for progress was to recognize the face of the conflict.” We see it in the actions of a Palestinian who lost three daughters to Israeli shells in Gaza. “I have the right to feel angry,” he said. “So many people were expecting me to hate. My answer to them is I shall not hate. Let us hope,” he said, “for tomorrow.”

That is the choice that must be made -– not simply in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but across the entire region -– a choice between hate and hope; between the shackles of the past and the promise of the future. It’s a choice that must be made by leaders and by the people, and it’s a choice that will define the future of a region that served as the cradle of civilization and a crucible of strife.

For all the challenges that lie ahead, we see many reasons to be hopeful. In Egypt, we see it in the efforts of young people who led protests. In Syria, we see it in the courage of those who brave bullets while chanting, “peaceful, peaceful.” In Benghazi, a city threatened with destruction, we see it in the courthouse square where people gather to celebrate the freedoms that they had never known. Across the region, those rights that we take for granted are being claimed with joy by those who are prying loose the grip of an iron fist.

For the American people, the scenes of upheaval in the region may be unsettling, but the forces driving it are not unfamiliar. Our own nation was founded through a rebellion against an empire. Our people fought a painful Civil War that extended freedom and dignity to those who were enslaved. And I would not be standing here today unless past generations turned to the moral force of nonviolence as a way to perfect our union –- organizing, marching, protesting peacefully together to make real those words that declared our nation: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

Those words must guide our response to the change that is transforming the Middle East and North Africa -– words which tell us that repression will fail, and that tyrants will fall, and that every man and woman is endowed with certain inalienable rights.

It will not be easy. There’s no straight line to progress, and hardship always accompanies a season of hope. But the United States of America was founded on the belief that people should govern themselves. And now we cannot hesitate to stand squarely on the side of those who are reaching for their rights, knowing that their success will bring about a world that is more peaceful, more stable, and more just.

Thank you very much, everybody. (Applause.) Thank you.

END 1:00 P.M. EDT

Political Highlights May 19, 2011: President Obama’s Speech on the Middle East Advocates Israel Returning to Pre-1967 Borders — Israel Reacts


By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.



  • Obama Backs Mideast Plan Based on 1967 Borders: Declaring that “the dream of a Jewish and democratic state cannot be fulfilled with permanent occupation,” President Obama said that a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must embody two sovereign states based on pre-1967 borders.


  • As Obama Endorses ’67 Borders, Netanyahu Objects: President Obama’s endorsement on Thursday of a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute based on the 1967 borders — the first time an American president has explicitly endorsed those borders as the baseline for negotiations over a Palestinian state — prompted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel to push back and the Palestinian leadership to call an urgent meeting.
    Mr. Netanyahu said in a statement just before boarding a plane to Washington that while he appreciated Mr. Obama’s commitment to peace, he “expects to hear a reaffirmation from President Obama of American commitments made to Israel in 2004 which were overwhelmingly supported by both houses of Congress.”
    Those commitments came in a letter from President George W. Bush that stated, among other things, that “it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949,” which was another way of describing the 1967 boundaries…. – NYT, 5-19-11
  • Obama Endorses 1967 Borders for Israel: Seeking to harness the seismic political change still unfolding in the Arab world, President Obama for the first time on Thursday publicly called for a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that would create a non-militarized Palestinian state on the basis of Israel’s borders before 1967.
    “At a time when the people of the Middle East and North Africa are casting off the burdens of the past, the drive for a lasting peace that ends the conflict and resolves all claims is more urgent that ever,” he said.
    Although Mr. Obama said that “the core issues” dividing Israelis and Palestinians remain to be negotiated, including the searing questions of Jerusalem and the fate of Palestinian refugees, he spoke with striking frustration that efforts to support an agreement had so far failed. “The international community is tired of an endless process that never produces an outcome,” he said.
    The outline for an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement came in what the president called “a moment of opportunity” following six months of political upheaval that has at times left the administration scrambling to keep up. The speech was an attempt to articulate a cohesive American policy to an Arab Spring that took a dark turn as the euphoria of popular revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt gave way to violent crackdowns in Bahrain and Syria, a civil war in Libya and political stalemate in Yemen…. – NYT, 5-19-11
  • Obama Speech Backlash on Call to Reinstate 1967 Mideast Borders: President Obama’s call this afternoon for Israel and Palestine to redraw boundaries based on 1967 lines has already generated backlash.
    “The dream of a Jewish and democratic state cannot be fulfilled with permanent occupation,” the president said in a wide-ranging, Mideast speech at the State Department.
    “The United States believes that negotiations should result in two states, with permanent Palestinian borders with Israel, Jordan, and Egypt, and permanent Israeli borders with Palestine. The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states.”
    The suggestion landed with a thud in Israel, where some skeptics worry that such a border makes the country less secure. The country will object to any “indefensible” borders, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement.
    “The viability of a Palestinian state cannot come at the expense of Israel’s existence,” said Netanyahu, who is expected to arrive here in Washington Friday.
    Netanyahu’s office tweeted its clear disapproval of the president’s reference to the 1967 borders.
    “Prime Minister Netanyahu expects to hear a reaffirmation from President Obama of U.S. commitments made to Israel in 2004, which were overwhelmingly supported by both Houses of Congress,” the office wrote on Twitter. “Among other things, those commitments relate to Israel not having to withdraw to the 1967 lines which are both indefensible and which would leave major Israeli population centers in Judea and Samaria beyond those lines.”… – ABC News, 5-19-11
  • Obama pledges new aid to Mideast nations embracing democracy: Under pressure from key allies to act more decisively on several volatile issues in the Middle East and North Africa, President Obama on Thursday promised new U.S. aid to nations that embrace democracy while he also condemned attacks on demonstrators, notably in Syria.
    Saying that the future of the United States is bound to the region in a number of ways, Obama said he was focused on “how we can respond in a way that advances our values and strengthens our security.”
    In what was billed as a major speech meant to define U.S. interests in the region amid the wave of change known as the Arab Spring, Obama was unveiling a series of economic initiatives to encourage democracy there, including aid for Tunisia and a total of $2 billion in debt relief and loan guarantees for Egypt’s fledgling government.
    Speaking at the State Department before an audience of U.S. diplomats, administration officials and foreign envoys, Obama made his first broad attempt to place the region’s wave of popular uprisings, which have swept away autocrats in Tunisia and Egypt and threatened several others, in the context of American interests and values. Aides said he felt it was importrant to address the armed rebellion in Libya, the uprising in Syria and the moribund peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.
    The speech was aimed in part at reassuring allies alarmed by what they perceive as drift in Obama’s policy in the rapidly changing region, after weeks when Osama bin Laden’s killing and a domestic debate over the national debt took center stage…. – WaPo, 5-19-11
  • Obama Lays Out U.S. Policy on Arab World Amid Uprisings: With a backdrop of continuing anti-government protests in the Arab world and criticism from some corners over a perceived uneven U.S. response, President Obama said in a major policy speech Thursday that the U.S. would use its influence and economic power to support the region’s transitions to democracy.
    “Our message is simple: if you take the risks that reform entails, you will have the full support of the United States,” he said.
    The president said that for decades, the United States has pursued a set of interests, including countering terrorism, stopping the spread of nuclear weapons, securing the flow of commerce and security in the region, and standing up for Israel’s security along with pursuing Arab-Israeli peace.
    And while the U.S. would continue to do these things, “we must acknowledge that a strategy based solely upon the narrow pursuit of these interests will not fill an empty stomach or allow someone to speak their mind,” he said.
    President Obama also acknowledged that “we have learned from our experience in Iraq just how costly and difficult it is to impose regime change by force — no matter how well-intended it may be.”… – PBS Newshour, 5-19-11
  • Barack Obama throws full US support behind Middle East uprisings: • President unveils shift in US policy towards Arab countries
    • ‘Status quo not sustainable,’ he warns region’s autocracies
    • Sets out two-state solution to Israeli-Palestinian conflict
    • Tells Syria’s Assad to lead transition or ‘get out of way’
    Barack Obama has sought to realign US policy on the Middle East, promising to shift from the long-held American backing for autocratic regimes to support for pro-democracy movements – and pledging to set out the shape of an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.
    “The status quo is not sustainable,” Obama said in a major speech at the state department in Washington on Thursday, the first on the Middle East since he spoke in Cairo in 2009.
    In a speech dubbed Cairo 2, he threw US weight behind the protesters, saying: “We face a historic opportunity. We have embraced the chance to show that America values the dignity of the street vendor in Tunisia more than the raw power of the dictator … After decades of accepting the world as it is in the region, we have a chance to pursue the world as it should be.”
    He was addressing criticism that America has moved too slowly in response to the pro-democracy movements sweeping the region.
    As well as support for the newly emerging democracies in Egypt and Tunisia, he criticised long-term US allies such as Bahrain, where America has a large naval base, for its suppression of democracy movements…. – Guardian UK, 5-19-11
  • President Obama has message for Mideast regimes: We’ll give you aid, if you promote reform: President Obama proposed billions in economic aid Thursday to reward Mideast regimes that reform, delivering a much-hyped speech on U.S. policy toward a region rocked by upheaval.
    “Square by square, town by town, the people have risen up to demand their basic human rights,” Obama told an audience at the U.S. State Department. “And though these countries may be a great distance from our shores, we know our own future is bound to this region by the forces of economics, security, by history, by faith.”
    Obama embraced the sea change triggered in Tunisia and vowed to support the growing freedom movement across the Arab world.
    “We have a stake not just in the stability of nations, but in the self-determination of individuals,” Obama said.
    “The status quo is not sustainable. Societies held together by fear and repression may offer the illusion of stability for a time, but they’re built upon fault lines that will eventually tear asunder.”… – NY Daily News, 5-19-11
  • Obama Addresses ‘Extraordinary Change’ in Middle East, North Africa: ‘In Libya, we had a mandate to take action,’ says President Obama. ‘Syrian government must stop unjustified arrests of protesters.’
    U.S. President Barack Obama has welcomed the “extraordinary change” taking place in the Middle East and North Africa, but said too many countries have met the calls for change with violence.
    Mr. Obama, speaking Thursday at the State Department, said the most extreme example is Libya, where he said Moammar Gadhafi launched a war against his own people. He said thousands of people would have been killed in Libya if the United States and its partners did not act.
    He said Syria has also chosen the “path of murder and mass arrests.” Mr. Obama called on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to either lead a transition to democracy or “get out the way.” He called on the Syrian government to stop shooting protestors, allow peaceful protests and stop unjust arrests.
    Mr. Obama noted that in the last six months two leaders have been replaced in the Middle East and North Africa, and he said “more may follow” as people rise up to demand their basic rights.
    He said it will be the policy of the United States to promote reform across the region and support a transition to democracy. He said that effort begins in Egypt and Tunisia…. – VOA, 5-19-11
  • The speech that signals a Washington-Jerusalem collision: Analysis: The tone of Netanyahu’s response to the Obama speech made clear that he disliked it more than he liked it.
    US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu seemed on a collision course following Obama’s speech Thursday night where the president called for a return to the 1967 lines, with mutually agreed-upon land swaps.
    Netanyahu’s position, which he highlighted in an unexpectedly negative response to the president’s speech, is that the 1967 lines are indefensible.
    Although Obama made an effort to give some points to Israel and some to the Palestinians, in the final analysis he essentially adopted the Palestinian position that the 1967 lines – and not defensible borders – should be the baseline of any agreement.
    Obama also adopted the Palestinian position that was a point of sharp contention during the proximity, or indirect, talks last year: that the negotiations should start with borders and security. Israel’s position was that all the core issues, including Jerusalem and the refugee issue, should be discussed simultaneously so that the Palestinians, and not only Israel, will have to make concessions.
    Obama also seemed to rule out a long-term Israeli presence in the Jordan Valley, as Netanyahu has demanded, saying the Palestinian state should border on Egypt, Israel and Jordan – meaning that the Palestinians, and not Israel, would control the border to the east.
    The elements of the speech that were pleasant to Netanyahu’s ears were the US president’s call for a return to negotiations; his unequivocal dismissal of the Palestinian effort to isolate Israel at the UN in September by bringing a resolution calling for recognition of a Palestinian state; his questioning of the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation; and his strong words of commitment to Israel’s security.
    But the tone of Netanyahu’s response to the overall speech made clear that he disliked it more than he liked it – and all this before his five-day trip to Washington began. – JPost, 5-19-11
  • Netanyahu: ‘67 borders ‘indefensible’: Benjamin Netanyahu responded to President Obama’s call for negotiations based on the 1967 borders by saying those borders are “indefensible” for Israel.
    Instead, the Israeli prime minister urged Obama to reaffirm commitments made by President George W. Bush regarding Israel’s borders.
    “Israel appreciates President Obama’s commitment to peace,” the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement. “Israel believes that for peace to endure between Israelis and Palestinians, the viability of a Palestinian state cannot come at the expense of the viability of the one and only Jewish state.”
    In his Thursday policy address at the State Department, Obama had said that the borders of a “sovereign, nonmilitarized” Palestinian state “should be based on 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps.”
    Netanyahu’s office said in response that he “expects to hear a reaffirmation from President Obama of U.S. commitments made to Israel in 2004, which were overwhelmingly supported by both Houses of Congress.”
    “Among other things, those commitments relate to Israel not having to withdraw to the 1967 lines, which are both indefensible and which would leave major Israeli population centers in Judea and Samaria beyond those lines,” the Prime Minister’s Office said. “Those commitments also ensure Israel’s well-being as a Jewish state by making clear that Palestinian refugees will settle in a future Palestinian state rather than in Israel.”
    The statement also reiterated the prime minister’s insistence that the Palestinians recognize Israel as “the nation state of the Jewish people” and that Israel retain a military presence along the Jordan River.
    Obama contradicted one element of that in his speech when he said he envisions a permanent Palestinian state with a border with Jordan.
    Netanyahu’s statement also said that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas “seeks a Palestinian state in order to continue the conflict with Israel,” citing his unity agreement with Hamas and recent statements by the Palestinian leader. – JTA, 5-19-11
  • Israeli leader reacting to Obama speech: West Bank pullout would leave Israel indefensible: In his speech, Obama endorsed the Palestinian position on the borders of their future state, saying it should be based on Israel’s lines before the 1967 Mideast war. Israel captured the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza Strip in the fighting, and the Palestinians claim those areas for their state.
    Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas planned to convene a meeting with senior officials as soon as possible to decide on the next steps, said Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat.
    Abbas is determined “to give President Obama’s effort and that of the international community the chance they deserve,” Erekat said.
    The U.S., the international community and even past Israeli governments have endorsed a settlement based on the 1967 lines, but Obama was far more explicit than in the past. His position appeared to put him at odds with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has not accepted the concept.
    Reacting to Obama’s speech, Benjamin Netanyahu rejected a full withdrawal from the West Bank, saying the 1967 lines were “indefensible” and would leave major Jewish settlements outside Israel. Netanyahu rejects any pullout from east Jerusalem…. – WaPo, 5-19-11
  • Obama: Israel must act boldly: In major policy speech, President Obama says ‘Israel must act boldly to advance lasting peace,’ stresses status quo ‘unsustainable.’ Border between Israel, Palestinians to be based on 1967 lines, he says
    Israel must act boldly in order to advance a peace agreement with the Palestinians, President Barack Obama said in his highly anticipated Mideast policy speech Thursday, presenting his vision for future negotiations.
    “The dream of a Jewish and democratic state cannot be fulfilled with permanent occupation,” he said.
    “There are those who argue that with all the change and uncertainty in the region, it is simply not possible to move forward (on peace,)” Obama said. “I disagree… the drive for a lasting peace that ends the conflict and resolves all claims is more urgent than ever.”
    Obama blamed both Israel and the Palestinians for failing to meet expectations in their pursuit of peace thus far.
    “Israeli settlement activity continues. Palestinians have walked away from talks,” he said.
    Turning his attention to the Jewish State, the president stressed that America’s friendship with Israel “is rooted deeply in a shared history and shared values.”
    Obama noted that America’s committed to Israel’s security is “unshakable,” but added that “precisely because of our friendship, it is important that we tell the truth: the status quo is unsustainable, and Israel too must act boldly to advance a lasting peace.”… – YNet News, 5-19-11
  • Obama: 1967 borders with swaps should serve as basis for negotiations: President Obama said the future state of Palestine should be based on the pre-1967 border with mutually agreed land swaps with Israel.
    In his address Thursday afternoon on U.S. policy in the Middle East, Obama told an audience at the State Department that the borders of a “sovereign, nonmilitarized” Palestinian state “should be based on 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps.”
    Negotiations should focus first on territory and security, and then the difficult issues of the status of Jerusalem and what to do about the rights of Palestinian refugees can be breached, Obama said.
    “Recognizing that negotiations need to begin with the issues of territory and secuertiy does not mean it will be easy to come back to the table,” Obama said, noting the new unity deal between Fatah and Hamas, a group foreswarn to Israel’s destruction.
    “How can one negotiate with a party that shows itself unwilling to recognize your right to exist?” Obama said. “Palestinians have to provide a credible answer to that question.”
    The U.S. president did not announce a specific initiative to bring Palestinians and Israelis back to the negotiating table.
    The speech, which focused mostly on the Arab democracy movements in Egypt, Tunisia, Syria and elsewhere in the Arab world, marked the first time Obama formally declared that the pre-Six Day War borders should form the basis of negotiations. – JTA, 5-19-11
  • Obama: Israel-Palestine Borders Should Be on 1967 Lines: In his speech on Thursday morning regarding Middle East policy, American President Barack Obama declared that a two-state solution is imperative to the security of the middle east, and that the borders must be based on the 1967 borders of the state of Israel with agreed upon territorial exchange. This, the president claims will provide “security” for both sides.
    “The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states. The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their potential, in a sovereign and contiguous state.
    As for security, every state has the right to self-defense, and Israel must be able to defend itself – by itself – against any threat. Provisions must also be robust enough to prevent a resurgence of terrorism; to stop the infiltration of weapons; and to provide effective border security. The full and phased withdrawal of Israeli military forces should be coordinated with the assumption of Palestinian security responsibility in a sovereign, non-militarized state.”
    The President also stated that nothing can go forward without full Palestinian recognition of the state of Israel on the side of the Palestinians, as well as full cooperation and change of policy from Hamas. Hamas recently signed a formal accord with its opposing party Fatah, and while no leader has yet been named to head this new party, it is clear that this new marriage of Palestinian leaders is not in Israel’s best interest as Hamas has declared repeatedly that all Jews should be killed and Israel does not actually exist.
    Recently, a Hamas official stated that while Hamas is willing to accept a Palestinian state within 1967 borders, it will not agree to recognize Israel formally as the “future generations” must be given the opportunity to “liberate the lands.”
    Briefly addressing the upcoming declaration of a unilateral Palestinian state by the United Nations in September, President Obama reiterated American support of Israel multiple times. “For the Palestinians, efforts to delegitimize Israel will end in failure. Symbolic actions to isolate Israel at the United Nations in September won’t create an independent state. Palestinian leaders will not achieve peace or prosperity if Hamas insists on a path of terror and rejection… Our commitment to Israel’s security is unshakeable. And we will stand against attempts to single it out for criticism in international forums.” – Virtual Jerusalem, 5-19-11
  • Obama: Israel, Palestine borders must be based on 1967 lines: Obama says status quo in Mideast and North Africa is not sustainable, stresses U.S. opposes use of violence, oppression against people of the region.
    President Barack Obama said Thursday that the U.S. endorses the Palestinians’ demand for their future state to be based on the borders that existed before the 1967 Middle East war.
    “The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states. The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their potential, in a sovereign and contiguous state. “
    U.S. President Barack Obama urged Palestinians and Israelis to renew peace talks on Thursday, and stressed that the Palestinians’ efforts to delegitimize Israel will fail.
    “For the Palestinians, efforts to delegitimize Israel will end in failure. Symbolic actions to isolate Israel at the United Nations in September won’t create an independent state,” Obama said. “Palestinian leaders will not achieve peace or prosperity if Hamas insists on a path of terror and rejection. And Palestinians will never realize their independence by denying the right of Israel to exist.”
    “As for Israel, our friendship is rooted deeply in a shared history and shared values. Our commitment to Israel’s security is unshakeable. And we will stand against attempts to single it out for criticism in international forums. But precisely because of our friendship, it is important that we tell the truth: the status quo is unsustainable, and Israel too must act boldly to advance a lasting peace.”… – Haaretz, 5-19-11
  • Obama: America’s future bound to Middle East: President Barack Obama says the future of the U.S. is bound to the Middle East and North Africa by the forces of economics, security, history and fate.
    Obama opened a major speech on U.S. policy in the region by trying to tell Americans why it matters to them even though the countries “may be a great distance from our shores.”
    He made the comments at the State Department Thursday in speech meant as his first comprehensive response to revolts sweeping the Arab world. It was aimed at audiences in the U.S. and the Middle East and North Africa, where the State Department was providing simultaneous translation in Arabic, Farsi and Hebrew.
    In his remarks, Mr. Obama addressed the Israel-Palestine conflict, and, in a move that will likely infuriate Israel, endorsed the Palestinians’ demand for their future state to be based on the borders that existed before the 1967 Middle East war. Israel says the borders of Palestinian state have to be determined through negotiations.
    Mr. Obama sided with the Palestinians’ opening position a day ahead of a visit to Washington by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu is vehemently opposed to referring to the 1967 borders.
    Until Thursday, the U.S. position had been that the Palestinian goal of a state based on the 1967 borders, with agreed land swaps, should be reconciled with Israel’s desire for a secure Jewish state through negotiations…. – CBS News, 5-19-11
  • ZOA to AIPAC: Withdraw Obama invite: The Zionist Organization of America urged AIPAC to rescind its invitation to President Obama after he called for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations on the basis of 1967 lines, saying Obama is the most hostile U.S. president ever to Israel.
    “We urge AIPAC to rescind the invitation for President Obama to speak and we urge friends of Israel and enemies of Islamist terrorism to contact your Members of Congress to fight against Obama’s anti-Israel policy,” said the ZOA’s statement Thursday. ZOA President Morton Klein added, “President Obama is the most hostile president to Israel ever.”
    Obama is set to address the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee on Sunday.
    The ZOA statement on Thursday “strongly condemned President Obama’s Mideast speech given today promoting and supporting the establishment of a Hamas/Fatah/Iran terrorist state on the Auschwitz 1967 indefensible armistice lines.”
    Obama called for negotiations to be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed land swaps.Obama is the first president to explicitly call for such a basis for negotiations, although predecessors Bill Clinton and George W. Bush have alluded to it.
    Other Jewish groups, including the American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League, praised Obama’s speech for rejecting any unilateral attempt to declare Palestinian statehood and for criticizing Fatah for its pact with Hamas.
    Obama meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday. Netanyahu is also set to speak to AIPAC. – JTA, 5-19-11
  • What Arabs want to hear (or not hear) from Obama speech: In contrast with Obama’s major speech two years ago in Cairo, today’s address on the Middle East has generated little interest in Egypt. But Libyans and Syrians have higher hopes…. – CS Monitor, 5-19-11
  • Obama’s Middle East Speech Has Many American Audiences: Thursday’s speech by President Obama on the upheaval in the Middle East is aimed at a global audience. But it will also play out in a domestic — and political — context as Mr. Obama seeks a second term in the White House.
    Since taking office, Mr. Obama has sought to strike a balance between reaching out to the Muslim world while also combating terrorism and pushing for progress toward peace between Israel and the Palestinians. The as-yet unfulfilled promise of that approach, which he described in a speech in Cairo in 2009, helped win him the Nobel Peace Prize early in his presidency.
    But the effort to construct a cohesive narrative for American voters about his administration’s efforts in the region has proved more difficult. The peace process has been largely halted. The move away from Bush-era terrorism policies has gone more slowly than expected. And the uprisings in the Arab world have forced case-by-case decisions that sometimes appear contradictory…. – NYT, 5-19-11
  • Obama’s Middle East speech — how far will he go?: We know many of the topics President Obama will discuss in this morning’s Middle East speech. The question is: How far will he go?
    For example, we suspect Obama will talk about the sanctions his government slapped yesterday on Syrian President Bashar Assad. But will he call on Assad to step aside in light of his government’s attacks on pro-democracy protesters?
    Obama is also expected to call for revived peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians, despite recent clashes between the two. But how much pressure will he put on either side, especially with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu coming to town for a presidential meeting on Friday?
    We know that Obama will announce plans for new economic aid to Tunisia and Egypt, countries that actually threw off authoritarian governments earlier this year; but how much money does that involve?… – USA Today, 5-19-11
  • Obama Speech to Test Extent of U.S. Influence: When President Barack Obama outlines his vision of U.S. policy in the Middle East today, his challenge will be to get people in the region to care.
    The excitement generated by Obama’s call two years ago for a “new beginning” in U.S.-Arab relations evaporated as people waited for changes that haven’t come, said Robert Danin of the Council on Foreign Relations and others who study the region.
    As protests have swept the Arab world, toppling some leaders and challenging others, U.S. influence has been diminished by a response seen as cautious and inconsistent, Danin and other analysts said. And the U.S. has suffered some very public diplomatic setbacks in dealing with Bahrain, Yemen, Syria, and the Israelis and Palestinians.
    “It’s not clear what the United States says right now matters to the people of the Middle East,” Danin said. “The people of the Arab world are more interested in seeing what the United States does, not what it has to say.”… – Bloomberg, 5-19-11
  • Focus Is on Obama as Tensions Soar Across Mideast: Few game-changing proposals are emerging to defuse tensions in the Middle East as a busy week of diplomacy unfolds with President Obama’s address to the region and his meeting with Israel’s prime minister.
    Against the backdrop of Middle East uprisings that have intensified animus toward Israel and growing momentum for global recognition of a Palestinian state, American and Israeli officials are struggling to balance national security interests against the need to adapt to a transformative movement in the Arab world.
    The White House unveiled a $2 billion multiyear economic aid package for Egypt, which officials say would largely shift existing funds. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel prepared to arrive in Washington with a package that he hoped would shift the burden of restarting the peace process to the Palestinians.
    Mr. Obama, who is set to address Americans — and, more significantly, Muslims around the world — from the State Department on Thursday morning, may yet have something surprising up his sleeve. One administration official said that there remained debate about whether Mr. Obama would formally endorse Israel’s pre-1967 borders as the starting point for negotiations over a Palestinian state, a move that would send an oratorical signal that the United States expected Israel to make concessions…. – NYT, 5-18-11


  • Moment of Opportunity: President Obama on the Middle East & North Africa: In a major speech at the State Department, President Obama laid out his vision for a new chapter in American diplomacy as calls for reform and democracy spread across the Middle East and North Africa. He made clear that the United States will support people who call for democracy and reform and leaders who implement them, will oppose violence in cracking down on protests and efforts to limit the rights of minorities, and continue to work for peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
    Fact Sheet: Economic Support for the Middle East and North Africa Fact Sheet: “A Moment of Opportunity” in the Middle East and North AfricaWH, 5-19-11
  • TEXT: Obama’s Mideast Speech: Following is a text of President Obama’s prepared speech on the Middle East, delivered on Thursday in Washington, as released by the White House:
    I want to thank Hillary Clinton, who has traveled so much these last six months that she is approaching a new landmark – one million frequent flyer miles. I count on Hillary every day, and I believe that she will go down as of the finest Secretaries of State in our nation’s history.
    The State Department is a fitting venue to mark a new chapter in American diplomacy. For six months, we have witnessed an extraordinary change take place in the Middle East and North Africa. Square by square; town by town; country by country; the people have risen up to demand their basic human rights. Two leaders have stepped aside. More may follow. And though these countries may be a great distance from our shores, we know that our own future is bound to this region by the forces of economics and security; history and faith.
    Today, I would like to talk about this change – the forces that are driving it, and how we can respond in a way that advances our values and strengthens our security. Already, we have done much to shift our foreign policy following a decade defined by two costly conflicts. After years of war in Iraq, we have removed 100,000 American troops and ended our combat mission there. In Afghanistan, we have broken the Taliban’s momentum, and this July we will begin to bring our troops home and continue transition to Afghan lead. And after years of war against al Qaeda and its affiliates, we have dealt al Qaeda a huge blow by killing its leader – Osama bin Laden.
    Bin Laden was no martyr. He was a mass murderer who offered a message of hate – an insistence that Muslims had to take up arms against the West, and that violence against men, women and children was the only path to change. He rejected democracy and individual rights for Muslims in favor of violent extremism; his agenda focused on what he could destroy – not what he could build.
    Bin Laden and his murderous vision won some adherents. But even before his death, al Qaeda was losing its struggle for relevance, as the overwhelming majority of people saw that the slaughter of innocents did not answer their cries for a better life. By the time we found bin Laden, al Qaeda’s agenda had come to be seen by the vast majority of the region as a dead end, and the people of the Middle East and North Africa had taken their future into their own hands…. – NYT, 5-19-11
  • Clinton introduces Obama address, says US vital in Mideast: Opening US President Barak Obama’s Middle East speech on Thursday, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton said that the “president’s clear vision, and pure principles” show the “indispensable role [the US] must play in the Middle East.”
    Clinton said “America’s leadership is more essential than ever,” and that the “US must lead in a new and innovative way.” She thanked the State Department, where Obama was speaking, for doing work “engaging with citizens in the streets and through social networks as [Middle East citizens] move from protests to politics.”… – JPost, 5-19-11
  • Netanyahu’s Office Tweets Disapproving Response to President Obama’s Speech: Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Office twitter account — run by Dr. Eitan Eliram, new media director of the prime minister’s office –- sent out a rapid succession of tweets stating clear disapproval with the president’s reference to the 1967 borders:
    “Israel appreciates President Obama’s commitment to peace. Israel believes that for peace to endure between Israelis and Palestinians, the viability of a Palestinian state… cannot come at the expense of the viability of the one and only Jewish state,” the tweets state. “That is why Prime Minister Netanyahu expects to hear a reaffirmation from President Obama of U.S. commitments made to Israel in 2004, which were overwhelmingly supported by both Houses of Congress. Among other things, those commitments relate to Israel not having to withdraw to the 1967 lines which are both indefensible and which would leave major Israeli population centers in Judea and Samaria beyond those lines. Those commitments also ensure Israel’s well-being as a Jewish state by making clear that Palestinian refugees will settle in a future Palestinian state rather than in Israel. Without a solution to the Palestinian refugee problem outside the borders of Israel, no territorial concession will bring peace. Equally, the Palestinians, and not just the United States, must recognize Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people, and any peace agreement with them must end all claims against Israel. Prime Minister Netanyahu will make clear that the defense of Israel requires an Israeli military presence along the Jordan River.”… – ABC News, 5-19-11
  • Mitt Romney: Obama threw Israel ‘under the bus’ in speech: President Obama “has thrown Israel under the bus,” potential rival Mitt Romney said in a statement responding to the president’s speech on Middle East policy Thursday
    The former Massachusetts governor criticizes Obama for endorsing a call for Israel to withdraw to borders that were in place before the 1967 war in the interests of achieving peace.
    “He has disrespected Israel and undermined its ability to negotiate peace,” Romney said. “He has also violated a first principle of American foreign policy, which is to stand firm by our friends.”… – LAT, 5-19-11
  • Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum (R), another candidate seeking to challenge Obama, later reacted more broadly to the policy Obama outlined for the region: “No speech can make up for the lost time and opportunity President Obama has squandered,” he said. “The current administration needs to come to terms with its confused and dangerous foreign policy soon, as clarity and security are the necessary conditions of any serious and coherent American set of policies.”
  • President Obama’s Suicide Speech for Israel: McCotter’s Statement re President Obama’s Middle East Speech: In response to President Obama’s address on the Middle East and North Africa, U.S. Representative Thaddeus G. McCotter (MI) has issued the following statement:
    In his latest lecture to the Middle East, an ideologically purblind President Obama has again failed to acknowledge the facts on the ground, much to the detriment of American and Israeli strategic interests.
    …Such strategic celerity, though, is lacking in the Obama Administration. For, as is becoming abundantly clear, its missteps and missed opportunities stem from the President’s inconstant commitment to the strategic partnership that founds America’s Middle Eastern policies for our national security and regional peace: the American-Israeli alliance.
    Israel is a market-based, liberal democracy that protects the lives and property of its people, including its minorities.
    Israel is America’s key strategic ally in the region. Israel enhances our defense capabilities; provides us a secure foothold in the strategically important and turbulent Middle East; and has supported our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan by sharing its military technology and its intelligence on hostile forces.
    Israel is under a constant and increasing threat from terrorist forces, such as Hamas and Hezbollah; instability on its borders; and the hatred of hostile nations, notably Iran and Syria, that seek our ally’s demise.
    Already, due to the Obama administration’s bungling, radical political forces in Egypt are promising to press for the abrogation of the Camp David accords with Israel, both as a matter of law and a matter of fact.
    Inexcusably, the President’s opining and overtures have caused America’s and Israel’s shared strategic interests to decline in the Arab world – as has, not ironically, America’s popularity.
    Now must end the Obama Administration’s pressure upon our ally to make dangerous strategic concessions, which the President has done since entering office. Indeed, from day one the President has misunderstood and mangled the peace process, demanding concessions on Israeli settlements that the Palestinians had never made a precondition in negotiations. In return, all the President has reaped is the Palestinian National Authority pulling out of negotiations and endeavoring to have the United Nations foist a Palestinian state upon Israel without any direct negotiations. Moreover, the President’s “policies” have done nothing to stem the Palestinian national authority allying with the terrorists of Hamas, who are pledged to Israel’s destruction.
    Today’s speech repeats the injurious canards of forcing unilateral concessions on Israel; and claiming Hamas is becoming “moderate”. This is naïve at best, and, in reality, a foolish and dangerous misreading of a terrorist group that is America’s and Israel’s enemy. Instead, The President should have made clear that, if the Palestinian Authority chooses Hamas, it has turned its back on peace and forfeited American support, aid and assistance.
    Bluntly, a continued destabilization of Israel’s security is a strategic sellout of the highest order, and a breaking of our solemn promise to our ally.
    Mideast peace will not result from arbitrarily and unilaterally imposed solutions that will, in consequence, only further destabilize the region. Peace will come when the Palestinians and the Arab nations accept Israel as a Jewish state, abandon their dreams of eradicating it; stop demonizing Israel; cease teaching their children to hate it; and, conversely, tolerate and protect the minorities in their midst. When this happens, the Israelis will have a true partner in peace, one with whom they can mutually work for liberty, prosperity and security in that long troubled land.
    Thus, to do otherwise in our strategic partnership with Israel, however unwittingly, would reveal President Obama’s failure to acknowledge President Kennedy’s sage advice: “The surest path to war is the path of weakness and disunity.”
    No, in the interests of peace and American and Israeli security, the President must acknowledge the truths underpinning our alliance; recognize those facts on the ground endangering our alliance; and, so doing, commence strengthening the foundations of the American-Israeli alliance; and the very hopes for Middle East peace. – The Hill, 5-19-11
  • Republican Jewish Committee: JC Executive Director Matt Brooks: RJC Concerned about Obama’s Call for Israel to Return to 1967 borders: Today the President called for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based “on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps.” Those borders, actually the 1949 armistice lines, are physically indefensible, as numerous military experts have plainly stated. Asking Israel to return to those borders is unacceptable and places Israel in a vulnerable and dangerous position.
    President Bush, in his 2004 letter to then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon memorializing the position of the United States, made it clear that, “In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949, and all previous efforts to negotiate a two-state solution have reached the same conclusion. It is realistic to expect that any final status agreement will only be achieved on the basis of mutually agreed changes that reflect these realities.”
    President Bush spoke often about Israel’s need for secure and defensible borders and recognized Israel’s legitimate claim to certain high-population Jewish areas, such as the immediate suburbs of Jerusalem, which are beyond the 1949 armistice line. In contrast, President Obama has consistently condemned even the building of housing in municipal Jerusalem itself. It is, in fact, President Obama’s insistence on a settlement freeze as a pre-condition to negotiations, more than anything else, that doomed his administration’s peace-making efforts. That stand emboldened Palestinian extremists, damaged the PA’s ability to negotiate, and forced Israelis to question the sincerity of the administration’s friendship.
    With that immediate history in mind, we are concerned that when President Obama speaks of “the 1967 borders,” he means borders for Israel that are much less secure and defensible and that put Israel at risk. – RJCHQ, 5-19-11
  • B’nai B’rith International commends and critiques: B’nai B’rith International commends President Obama for clearly reiterating U.S. support for Israel. The president noted the relationship between the United States and Israel is rooted in shared history and values and he strongly asserted that the commitment to Israel’s security is unshakable, while he affirmed that Israel is a Jewish state.
    It was also encouraging that the president spoke against unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood, a measure the Palestinians are planning to bring before the United Nations in September….
    B’nai B’rith is concerned that the president is prejudging the outcome of the peace process by publicly calling for pre-1967 borders as a basis for a Palestinian state, with land swaps. Discussion about this difficult issue should be reserved for direct negotiations between the parties.
    Though he noted the issue of Palestinian refugees, B’nai B’rith is disappointed that the president failed to mention the one million Jewish refugees created at the same time. The issue of Jewish refugees from Arab lands is often overlooked. JTA, 5-19-11
  • Reactions to Obama’s Middle East speechLAT, 5-19-11


  • Dore Gold, former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, on Fox News: “This is a radical shift in US policy toward Israel. Frankly, the 1967 lines are not defensible. …… Israel today is 45 miles wide. You put us back to the ’67 lines, we are eight miles wide.”
  • Politico Arena: Did Obama lay out cohesive Middle East policy?Politico, 5-19-11
  • Was Obama’s speech too tough on Israel? Republican criticism mounts: Congressional appropriators voiced doubts about some aspects of Obama’s speech. But the most pointed criticism was from the GOP. ‘Obama has thrown Israel under the bus,’ Mitt Romney said…. – CS Monitor, 5-19-11
  • Tevi Troy: Three Reasons That Obama’s Speech Will Worry the Jewish Community: Laura Meckler had a piece in this morning’s Wall Street Journal about Jewish donors’ warning Obama not to push Israel too hard in his Middle East speech today. If she’s right about Jewish discomfort with Obama’s Middle East policies — and I think she is — Jewish donors and voters alike will not be comforted by Obama’s speech.
    There were three main problems with the address. The first is the way in which Obama explained the ongoing Israeli–Palestinian conflict. It is notable that when Obama said, “Israeli settlement activity continues. Palestinians have walked away from talks,” he put the Israeli action first. A plausible interpretation of this is that, in Obama’s view, Palestinians walked away as a result of Israel’s settlement activity, and the Palestinian walkaway is therefore justified.
    Second is that Obama did not demand an end to Palestinian misbehavior so much as predict, in a removed way, that such behavior will not serve them well:
    For the Palestinians, efforts to delegitimize Israel will end in failure. Symbolic actions to isolate Israel at the United Nations in September won’t create an independent state. Palestinian leaders will not achieve peace or prosperity if Hamas insists on a path of terror and rejection. And Palestinians will never realize their independence by denying the right of Israel to exist.
    Compare this with Bush’s starker and more direct words on the subject in his June 24, 2002, speech:
    And the United States will not support the establishment of a Palestinian state until its leaders engage in a sustained fight against the terrorists and dismantle their infrastructure.
    When it comes to Israel, however, Obama returns to demand, rather than predictive, mode, saying that “Israel too must act boldly to advance a lasting peace.
    Third, Obama placed few limits on his support for a two-state solution. He also minimized Israel’s security concerns and limited Israel’s negotiating leverage by calling for a state with 1967 borders, instead of letting the parties themselves hash out the parameters. Again, compare this with the words of Bush, who rightly made American support for a Palestinian state contingent on concrete Palestinian actions:
    If Palestinians embrace democracy, confront corruption, and firmly reject terror, they can count on American support for the creation of a provisional state of Palestine.
    All of this is not accidental. Presidential speeches are written and rewritten so that they convey specific messages.
    For these reasons, Obama has ample reason to worry about a poor reception when he speaks to a very pro-Israel audience at AIPAC this Sunday. In addition, Obama’s campaign goal of raising $1 billion becomes much harder if he loses major Jewish fundraisers. While Bush’s 2004 improvement in the polls among American Jews was relatively small — from 19 percent support in 2000 to 24 percent in 2004 — Bush also poached a number of significant fundraisers from the Democratic side because of his pro-Israel stance.
    Finally, Obama has reason to fear a poorer showing in the overall Jewish vote in 2012. More important, though, it’s not just Jewish voters Obama needs to worry about. Polls have consistently shown that Americans in general are supportive of Israel. Jews are only 2 percent of the population, but the percentage of Israel backers who will be going to the polls in 2012 will be much higher. – NRO, 5-19-11
  • Snap analysis: Obama’s Mideast speech had political message too: It may not have been a campaign speech, but President Barack Obama’s foreign policy address on Thursday sent a series of political messages that could resonate in his 2012 race to retain the White House.
    Standing in front of a row of American flags at the State Department, Obama directed his comments on U.S. policy to populations throughout the Middle East and North Africa, offering economic and political support for democratic reform.
    But the president had another target audience: voters at home.
    By spelling out U.S. positions on the war in Libya, violence in Syria, and roadblocks in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Obama addressed specific interest groups and crucial independent voters who use foreign policy as a criteria at the ballot box.
    Here is a look at the political implications of Obama’s speech:
    1) Prodding the peace process forward….
    2) Showing leadership on Libya — and Syria?…
    3) Using the optics…
    4) Making the Arab Spring relevant to America…. – Reuters, 5-19-11
  • In Obama’s Middle East Speech, a little something for everyone to hate: President Barack Obama may have impressed much of the Arab world with his 2009 Cairo speech. But today’s effort won’t be remembered nearly as fondly…. – CS Monitor, 5-19-11
  • President Obama Rewards Hamas: President Obama delivered an unprecedented rebuke of the Israeli people by an American president today. In words that were designed to reach more Muslim citizens than United States citizens, Obama called Israel’s legitimate West Bank settlements an “occupation”; and by calling for a return to the 1967 borders, he is calling for a divided Jerusalem. He continued to press Israel to negotiate with the Palestinian Authority (PA) and, subsequently, with the “unity government” the PA has formed with the terrorist group, Hamas.
    It’s extremely troubling that President Obama would side with the Palestinian Authority in an effort to jump-start peace talks in the Middle East. President Obama is not the negotiator-in-chief for the Middle East and to make sweeping demands and characterizations not only hurts the peace process but also damages U.S.-Israeli relations.
    For decades, Israel has been our most important ally in the region. Sadly, with the President’s remarks, and decision to side with the Palestinian Authority, it appears he no longer believes that is the case. By endorsing the “unity government” he has rewarded Hamas – a terrorist organization that calls for the elimination of the Jews…. – Liberty Alerts, American Center for Law and Justice, 5-19-11
  • Obama speech greeted with skepticism, apathy in Mideast: President Obama’s vow that the United States will “stand squarely on the side of those who are reaching for their rights” in the Middle East was received with a mix of apathy and skepticism by people in the region who watched the speech Thursday night.
    Some said they saw little news or any discernible shift in policy from an administration that has struggled to formulate a coherent response to the wave of popular uprisings roiling the region this spring.
    “My hope was for an unqualified apology” for Obama’s perceived support of dictators, said Hossam Bahgat, a Cairo human rights activist who was among a handful of people who got up from his table to watch the speech at a popular downtown cafe. “And I thought only Obama could do that.”
    Baghat said he was expecting stronger words from a president who delivered a speech at Cairo University two years ago that left many in the Middle East feeling that the United States was backing away from its commitment to support democratic reform in the region.
    “The overwhelming sense was one of deja vu,” Bahgat said. “I kept waiting for Cairo II, but all I heard was Cairo I.”… – WaPo, 5-19-11
  • Digesting Obama’s speech—some goes down easy, some hard: Within hours of President Obama’s Middle East policy speech, Israeli leaders and Jewish groups on the left and right were picking through his remarks on Israel, alternately praising, fretting and criticizing.
    The big news was that Obama called for negotiations based on the pre-1967 lines, with land swaps.
    “We believe the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states,” he said.
    That prompted a round of fretting in Israel and among some American Jewish groups: Why did he say 1967 instead of 1949, when Israel’s armistice lines were established? Why did Obama bring up borders at all? Is there a difference between “lines” and “borders?”
    Obama also said negotiations should start by focusing on territory and security; the status of Jerusalem and the question of Palestinian refugees would come later. That prompted another round of fretting about those two issues.
    But there was also relief. Israel and Jewish groups were pleased Obama said he’s not happy about Fatah’s pact with Hamas. He talked about Israel as a Jewish state, and rejected “delegitimization.” He talked about a demilitarized Palestine.
    What was missing in all the Thursday afternoon quarterbacking was the bigger picture: Obama talked about Israeli-Palestinian peace as part of his larger speech on U.S. policy in the region because he believes consideration of the Middle East is impossible without advancing Israeli-Palestinian peace.
    “At a time when the people of the Middle East and North Africa are casting off the burdens of the past, the drive for a lasting peace that ends the conflict and resolves all claims is more urgent than ever,” Obama said. “That’s certainly true for the two parties involved.”
    Obama believes U.S. interests in the region will be advanced through democratization and development, but that it won’t happen unless the Israelis and the Palestinians get it together.
    The rebuke to Israelis and Palestinians for failing to reach accord was implicit but unmistakable at a time when the Palestinians and Israelis appear determined to go divergent ways. Israel’s government would prefer incremental advances to an interim solution, while the Palestinians appear to be seeking unilateral statehood by September.
    The rebuke is all the sharper on the eve of a visit to Washington by Benjamin Netanyahu; the Israeli prime minister had hoped the meeting would help restore the focus to the threat of Iran.
    Netanyahu’s statement in response to Obama’s speech knocked back the president’s key demands, point by point.
    “The viability of a Palestinian state cannot come at the expense of the viability of the one and only Jewish state,” Netanyahu said, a direct reference to Obama’s call for a “viable Palestine, a secure Israel.”
    The Israeli leader went on to make it clear that the speech did not go far enough in extending reassurances that the Obama administration would protect Israel’s interests during negotiations.
    Netanyahu wanted Obama to go as far as President George W. Bush did in 2004.
    “Prime Minister Netanyahu expects to hear a reaffirmation from President Obama of U.S. commitments made to Israel in 2004, which were overwhelmingly supported by both Houses of Congress,” the statement said.
    In his letter that year, Bush called it “unrealistic” to expect Israel to return major population centers, although he, like Obama, said the final-status negotiations should include mutually agreed land swaps. Netanyahu apparently wants to hear the same moral support for retaining some settlements that his predecessor, Ariel Sharon, extracted from Bush.
    Also of concern for Netanyahu was how Obama left out Bush’s rejection of a Palestinian “right of return.” All Obama would say was that the issues of refugees and Jerusalem were “wrenching and emotional” and should be left for later.
    Abraham Foxman, the Anti-Defamation League national director, praised the speech as a “strong outline of principles” but said Obama didn’t get what the stakes of the refugee issue are for Israel.
    “Jerusalem is emotional, yes,” he said. “Refugees is not emotional — it’s strategic.” – JTA, 5-19-11
  • Jonathan S. Tobin: Obama on Thin Ice With Jewish Voters: The White House has gotten the message that even many stalwart Jewish Democratic donors are not happy with his attitude toward Israel. Should he decide to make Israel pay for a “reset” with the Arab world, the backlash will not be inconsiderable.
    As the Journal rightly notes, most Jews are not one-issue voters. Most are liberals as well as partisan Democrats who care more about other issues, which means Obama is likely to retain a majority of Jewish votes in 2012 no matter what he does to Israel. But his advisors understand that another blow-up with Israel will hurt vital fundraising efforts. It could also cost him some Jewish votes. Even an increase in the Jewish vote going to the GOP from McCain’s paltry 22 percent to a number in the mid-30s could be important in pivotal states like Pennsylvania and Florida.
    Obama can, as he will in his speech to AIPAC on Sunday, point to the fact that the strategic alliance with Israel has not been weakened on his watch with respect to aid aimed at improving Israel’s defenses. Despite his hostility to Israel’s government and his foolish persistence in believing that more Israeli concessions will convince intransigent Palestinians to make peace, he has avoided a complete meltdown with Jerusalem though that is largely because Netanyahu has refused to take the bait and snipe back. But, if, as the Journal reports, over 40 percent of Jews would consider voting for someone other than Obama next year, the president must weigh the dubious diplomatic benefits of pressuring Israel against the certainty that such a policy will come with a not inconsiderable political price tag. – Commentary, 5-19-11
  • Obama and the Jews, 2012: You know the 2012 presidential race has started when… you start seeing stories about whether President Obama has to worry about losing Jewish votes and Jewish money.
    Check out this headline from The Wall Street Journal: “Jewish Donors Warn Obama on Israel.”
    The story is short on any examples of one-time major Obama supporters who have or are considering pulling their support.
    That said, it quotes at least one major Obama backers who have warned that campaign that it may have a problem:
    One top Democratic fund-raiser, Miami developer Michael Adler, said he urged Obama campaign manager Jim Messina to be “extremely proactive” in countering the perception in the Jewish community that Mr. Obama is too critical of Israel. He said his conversations with Mr. Messina were aimed at addressing the problems up front. “This was going around finding out what our weaknesses are so we can run the best campaign,” said Mr. Adler, who hosted a fund-raiser at his home for Mr. Obama earlier this year. …

    The WSJ also reports that top Friend of Obama Penny Pritzker has been tapped to look into the issue — though it’s unclear if this is a well-run campaign doing its homework or reflects a “Houston we have a problem” mode:
    The Obama campaign has asked Penny Pritzker, Mr. Obama’s 2008 national finance chairwoman, to talk with Jewish leaders about their concerns, Ms. Pritzker said. So far, she said, she’s met with about a half dozen people. She said the campaign is in the process of assembling a larger team for similar outreach.

    Ken Solomon, an Obama fund-raiser and CEO of the Tennis Channel, told WSJ that “any problems were minimal and that most Jewish voters were concerned about many issues, not just Israel.”
    Meanwhile, Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice-chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, is quoted as saying Obama could face a problem with unhappy Jewish donors sitting on their hands and their wallets:
    “It’s that people hold back, people don’t have the enthusiasm and are not rushing forward at fund-raisers to be supportive,” he said. “Much more what you’ll see is holding back now.” – JTA, 5-19-11

  • DANNY DANON: Making the Land of Israel Whole: OVER the past few months, analysts in Israel and abroad have warned that Israel will face what Defense Minister Ehud Barak has termed a “diplomatic tsunami.” In September, the Palestinian Authority plans to bring the recognition of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 boundary to the United Nations General Assembly for a vote. The Palestinians’ request will almost certainly be approved.
    While most voices in the Israeli and international news media are calling on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to grant major concessions to the Palestinians to forestall such a move, he should in fact do the opposite: he should annex the Jewish communities of the West Bank, or as Israelis prefer to refer to our historic heartland, Judea and Samaria.
    In 1995, as part of the Oslo accords, Israel and the Palestinians agreed that “neither side shall initiate or take any step that will change the status of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip pending the outcome of the permanent status negotiations.” If the president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, and prime minister, Salam Fayyad, decide to disregard this section of the accords by seeking United Nations recognition of statehood, it would mean that Israel, too, is no longer bound by its contents and is freed to take unilateral action.
    The first immediate implication would be that all of the diplomatic and security assistance that Israel provides to the Palestinians would be halted, and the transfer of tax revenues — upward of $1 billion per year — would end permanently. This alone could threaten the very existence of the Palestinian Authority.
    Second, a United Nations vote on Palestinian statehood would give Israel an opportunity to rectify the mistake we made in 1967 by failing to annex all of the West Bank (as we did the eastern half of Jerusalem). We could then extend full Israeli jurisdiction to the Jewish communities and uninhabited lands of the West Bank. This would put an end to a legal limbo that has existed for 44 years.
    In addition to its obvious ideological and symbolic significance, legalizing our hold on the West Bank would also increase the security of all Israelis by depriving terrorists of a base and creating a buffer against threats from the east. Moreover, we would be well within our rights to assert, as we did in Gaza after our disengagement in 2005, that we are no longer responsible for the Palestinian residents of the West Bank, who would continue to live in their own — unannexed — towns.
    These Palestinians would not have the option to become Israeli citizens, therefore averting the threat to the Jewish and democratic status of Israel by a growing Palestinian population.
    While naysayers will no doubt warn us of the dire consequences and international condemnation that are sure to follow such a move by Israel, this would not be the first time that Israel has made such controversial decisions…. – NYT, 5-19-11
  • LAURA MECKLER: Jewish Donors Warn Obama on Israel: Jewish donors and fund-raisers are warning the Obama re-election campaign that the president is at risk of losing financial support because of concerns about his handling of Israel.
    The complaints began early in President Barack Obama’s term, centered on a perception that Mr. Obama has been too tough on Israel.
    Some Jewish donors say Mr. Obama has pushed Israeli leaders too hard to halt construction of housing settlements in disputed territory, a longstanding element of U.S. policy. Some also worry that Mr. Obama is putting more pressure on the Israelis than the Palestinians to enter peace negotiations, and say they are disappointed Mr. Obama has not visited Israel yet.
    One top Democratic fund-raiser, Miami developer Michael Adler, said he urged Obama campaign manager Jim Messina to be “extremely proactive” in countering the perception in the Jewish community that Mr. Obama is too critical of Israel.
    He said his conversations with Mr. Messina were aimed at addressing the problems up front. “This was going around finding out what our weaknesses are so we can run the best campaign,” said Mr. Adler, who hosted a fund-raiser at his home for Mr. Obama earlier this year…. – WSJ, 5-19-11
  • Deciphering Obama’s mideast speech: President Obama’s speech on the Middle East this morning is an attempt to put the Arab Spring into context– and also, in effect, to hit the “reset button” on U.S. policy in the region. Administration officials say they have tried to tackle each uprising in a deliberate fashion, with a
%d bloggers like this: