Israeli response to Obama speech divided

June 4, 2009 at 8:46 AM
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JERUSALEM, June 4 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama's much awaited speech to the world's Muslim community Thursday spurred a variety of responses in Israel from praise to derision.

Analysts on Israeli television stations criticized the American president for failing to mention the word terror in his speech even once, opting instead to use violence. While the professionalism and conviction Obama delivered his speech was praised by some Israeli officials, others felt the president's reference to the Holocaust followed by a direct passage where he spoke of the suffering and humiliation of the Palestinian people was hurtful and unnecessary.

Obama, speaking in Cairo, said, "Around the world Jewish people were persecuted for centuries. ... six million Jews were killed ... more than the entire Jewish population of Israel today. Denying that fact is baseless, ignorant and hateful. ...On the other hand, it is also undeniable that the Palestinian people -- Muslims and Christians -- have suffered in pursuit of a homeland. For more than 60 years they have endured the pain of dislocation. Many wait in refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza, and neighboring lands for a life of peace and security that they have never been able to lead ... the situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable. America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own."

While Israeli parliamentarians affiliated with the left praised the speech, saying it instills hope in the region, parliamentarians affiliated with the right said the speech raised fears over the price Israel will be forced to pay for the sake of peace.

Knesset member Eitan Cabel said Obama's speech proves Washington is not blind to the situation. Another Israeli parliamentarian, Haim Oron, told the daily Maáriv newspaper the speech gave great hope to the region. Knesset member Dr. Michael Ben-Ari declared, "we survived Pharaoh we will survive this."

Parliamentarian Zeév Boim declared that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has failed to evaluate the new U.S. president properly. "Obama's speech is further proof that Netanyahu failed to evaluate the policies of the U.S. administration correctly," he said.

Obama's call for an immediate halt to construction of new Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza will only serve to boost the settlement industry, settler leader Moti Yogev, a member of the Binyamin Regional Council, said in an interview on Israel Television Channel One.

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