Saturday, June 20, 2009

Netanyahu's Speech in Israeli Media, Part 1: Obama

Since last Sunday I've wanted to write a post on my thoughts on the Israeli media's reaction to Netanyahu's speech on that day.

A whole lot of ink has flowed from Israeli pens on the subject and so it's difficult to catch it all. It's interesting to note that the Israeli media seemed to dedicate what is probably the lions share of their writing on the speech not about the speech itself, but about what others are saying about the speech, most notably the US and Obama himself. I'll try to cover these reactions is a few separate posts because I think a single one could be too long.

Take for example this Jpost article which highlights Obama's opinion that Netanyahu's speech is a good place to start serious negotiations from. It also quotes Obama as making an interesting remark that it is to be expected that there would be a knee-jerk Arab rejection of whatever comes out of Israel. He also suggests that Israel would react the same way to anything that came from an Arab leader.

Ha'aretz also reports on Obama's reaction to Netanyahu's speech and makes an additional interesting note that Obama seemed to welcome the idea of the two states mentioned by Netanyahu but not the caveats that Netanyahu insists on. For example, Obama is opposed to any sort of activity in the settlements and criticizes Netanyahu for defending the "natural growth" issue. Obama also makes the important point of stating that Arabs must end their education system's incitement of hate towards Israel.

YNet covers the same story as the JPost with the same quotes but goes a bit further to report on Netanyahu's response to the reaction to his speech: disappointment. In particular, Netanyahu had hoped that the Arab response to his speech would have been better. He considers himself to have created an opportunity for a real peace that he was hoping would be grasped.

The significance of this attention on Obama is that it frames Netanyahu's speech as a reply to Obama's Cairo address in some sort of international conversation by speeches. I don't think this is the case. Netanyahu's speech is an overdue policy address. It's likely that he was waiting to hear Obama's position before he spoke, it's also true that there were some elements in the speech that referred to comments made by Obama--most notably Netanyahu's comments on the Holocaust which refute what many commented was Obama's linking of the Holocaust and the creation of Israel--but the speech as a whole was very distinctly Israeli. It was not part of a dialogue with Obama but rather an overdue explanation of the Israeli government's foreign policy. Indeed, the name "the United States" does not even appear once in Netanyahu's speech.

Stay tuned for further posts on the reaction of others in the US, the EU, the Arab world as seen by Israeli media and Israeli opinion and analysis.

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