“You may come away thinking, ‘Wow, he agrees with me.’ But later, when you get home and think about it, you are not sure.”
Rashid Khalidi on Barack Obama
But we are becoming more sure all the time.
According to The Washington Post, the Cairo speech that Obama gave on June 4th represents his actual feelings, and that rather than being the result of talks with his advisers:
several senior White House officials described the president's views on Israeli settlements as years old and not the product of recent events or discussions. "It would be a mistake to suggest that anyone led him to this position," a senior adviser said. "It's one that he generated himself."
Towards an understanding of Obama's true position on Israel's settlements, Jennifer Rubin compares 3 different Obama speeches over the past 3 years: before AIPAC while a senator in 2007, before AIPAC after clinching the nomination in 2008, and in Cairo in 2009.
But in the end, we also know that we should never seek to dictate what is best for the Israelis and their security interests. No Israeli Prime Minister should ever feel dragged to or blocked from the negotiating table by the United States.
Israel can also advance the cause of peace by taking appropriate steps — consistent with its security — to ease the freedom of movement for Palestinians, improve economic conditions in the West Bank, and to refrain from building new settlements — as it agreed to with the Bush administration at Annapolis.
...The United States must be a strong and consistent partner in this process — not to force concessions, but to help committed partners avoid stalemate and the kind of vacuums that are filled by violence. That's what I commit to do as president of the United States.
At the same time, Israelis must acknowledge that just as Israel’s right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestine’s. The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop.
On the differences between the 2 AIPAC speeches and the Cairo speech Rubin notes:
It is hard to escape the conclusion that he told a very different story in 2008 to get elected and, once in office, sprung the most antagonistic approach to Israel and the most timid toward Iran of any president in recent memory. Those who bought his story in 2008 were had. And those who vouched for him should be embarrassed.The Washington Post article concludes with an account of Obama in Cleveland in 2008:
"This is where I get to be honest, and I hope I'm not out of school here," he said in a transcript published by JTA, a news service on Jewish issues. "I think there is a strain within the pro-Israel community that says unless you adopt an unwavering pro-Likud approach to Israel that you're anti-Israel. . . . If we cannot have an honest dialogue about how do we achieve these goals, then we're not going to make progress."Apparently, we are still waiting for that honest dialog.