Obama in the Promised Land

President Barak Obama went to the Middle East. He spent his first day with Bibi Netanyahu, the next with Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah followed by a speech at the Jerusalem Convention Center. His last day was spent in Amman, Jordan where he met with King Abdullah, who holds a place of peace in the region. His speech in Jerusalem in a huge auditorium full of Israeli students showcased Obama at his best, which the audience acknowledged with long stretches of applause and standing ovations. He pointed out that neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians will be able to get everything they want, so both sides must make a leap from status quo to compromise. Sadly, it seems unlikely that his eloquence will shift the region’s ancient story, but he did make his positions clear. He reassured the students that the U.S. is a partner of Israel's, but also said that true security lies in respecting the Palestinians’ right to their own homeland, and that the settlements do not fit into a move toward peace. This drew wild applause, as the generation that is coming of age has a great stake in peace.

In an effort to be balanced, he did not overplay the fact that he had come under Hamas rocket fire near Gaza, but he also did not quite capture how much the building of settlements truly costs Palestinians, who can awaken to discover a fence and an army placed between their village their olive fields (which are their source of income). For a visceral view of one such village I recommend a wonderfully well-done documentary: 5 Broken Cameras (http://vimeo.com/15843191 or www.movies.netflix.com). It’s a moving, eye-opening film. If you missed the President’s speech, you can find it via Google. The issues generated between Israelis and Palestinians are filled with complexities, and their relationships one to the other can have huge impact on the world. What would you suggest?

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