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During his historic visit to the Middle East, U.S. President Barack Obama addressed the Islamic world, vowing that America seeks a new beginning with Muslims, challenging them to confront violent extremism, and calling the Palestinian people’s pursuit for a homeland undeniable.
Mr. Obama also reaffirmed that the bond between the United States and Israel is unbreakable, and said that for Israelis and Palestinians to establish peace, they must find common ground.
President Obama’s words may have partly influenced Lebanon’s June 8 elections, in which a pro-Western coalition won 68 parliamentary seats, compared to 57 for the Hezbollah-led alliance.
Congratulating the nation, Mr. Obama said, “Once more, the people of Lebanon have demonstrated to the world their courage and the strength of their commitment to democracy” (AP).
But not all in the Middle East are enamored with the president. During a May 18 meeting in Washington, D.C., he urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to freeze all Jewish settlement expansion, accept a two-state solution to enable Israel and an independent Palestinian state to live side by side in peace and security, and to resume peace talks with the Palestinians.
In defiance, Israeli settlers and activists constructed a new outpost (Oz Yehonatan) between Migron and Kochav Ya’acov, and built a wooden hut mockingly called the “Obama Hut.” Settlers also rebuilt an outpost that security forces had previously dismantled.
One activist said of President Obama, “He’s an Arab Muslim and a gentile, he is fighting against the Jewish people and has declared that he will continue to do so. We already stated our intention to continue to build, no matter who is fighting us—Egypt, Germany or the U.S.” (Jerusalem Post).
Explaining why peace in the Middle East is impossible, a rabbi meeting with settlers said, “It’s all illusions...there was never peace, there is no peace and there will not be peace” (ibid.).
Peace activists also responded to Mr. Obama’s speech. “As an Israeli,” said Uri Avineri, founder of Gush Shalom (Peace Bloc), “I’m enthusiastic about him paving a clear road towards peace, setting out clearly that what we aim for is a two-state solution and an end to settlements” (Christian Science Monitor).
Mr. Avineri added, “Also, he included Hamas in the new order, speaking about them respectfully, and without threats, and yet demanding what has to be demanded, but clearly indicating that the US would accept a Palestinian unity government with Hamas in it” (ibid.).