Back during Term 1 there was some talk by New York Tymies and Washington Posties that Obama should go and do a Cairo speech in Israel to persuade the Israeli people to make more concessions for peace. Considering that there have been lots of concessions and no peace and that there isn’t even a single Palestinian Muslim state, but two wannabes, one in Gaza and one in the West Bank, that may have been a significant overestimation of Obama’s speechifying powers.
In a meeting with a group of Arab Americans this week, U.S. President Barack Obama revealed that he will not push the Israelis and Palestinians toward restarting negotiations or outline a new peace initiative during his upcoming visit to the region, but he will take with him a cash infusion of $500 million – which Congress will soon release – of much needed financial aid to the Palestinian Authority.
Obama met at the White House with members from the Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee, the Arab American Institute, the Arab Federation of Ramallah, the American Task Force for Palestine and other individuals and groups.
“Obama said that since the Israeli government has not been willing to make concessions, there is no point in pushing [for negotiations] right now,” one participant at the meeting with Obama said on condition of anonymity.
“He said the goal of his trip was to speak to the Israeli people directly,” said another participant. “He thinks it was a mistake that he didn’t address the Israeli public in his first term.”
Unlike Egypt, Israel isn’t ruled by a dictator, so it’s unclear what Obama’s big speech, which will no doubt invoke Rabin, Begin, Sadat, is supposed to accomplish.
“He said he wanted to see what kind of concessions the Israelis are willing to make and push them in that direction, that’s why he wants to give the speech to the Israeli people,” said one source.
But Obama warned that the speech to the Israeli public might not have what the Arab participants in the meeting were looking for. “But he implored us to give them a pass on this one,” the source said.
Obama also expressed his frustrations with the lack of progress on the negotiations. “He was highly engaged but realistic. He understands the community was frustrated; he said he was very frustrated. ‘The only people more frustrated than me,’ Obama said, were the ‘Palestinians living in West Bank and Gaza – it’s a legitimate frustration,’” the source quoted Obama as saying.
One of the participants also said that Obama expressed his frustration with Congress. “Every time the pressure gets to the Israelis they go to Congress,” said the source. “He wants to find a way around that, that’s why he wants to talk to the Israeli public directly.”
Which suggests that the trip isn’t the big show, it’s meant to set up what the big show will be.
Obama had a last message to the participants. “He said ‘this trip is not going to give you everything you want’,” a source said.
But it is, implicitly, going to set up everything they want.