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Obama Faces Democratic Party Backlash on Israel Stance


Unanimous Democratic party support for President Barack Obama has cracked in the wake of his drastic change in policy towards a Jewish presence in Judea and Samaria.

Several Democratic Congressmen have publicly stated opposition to Obama's demand for a halt to all building for Jews in Judea and Samaria. The Obama government also refused to state if it will honor a commitment by George W. Bush that facts on the ground dictate that large population centers in Judea and Samaria must remain under Israeli sovereignty.

Obama in Egypt Reaches Out to Muslim World


President Barack Obama delivered his long-awaited speech Thursday on U.S. and Muslim relations, offering a hand of friendship to Islam and addressing an array of quandaries and conflicts dividing the two cultures.

At Egypt's Cairo University, Obama quoted from the Quran as he expounded on Islam's glories and rights, the legitimate rights of Israel and the Palestinians, Iranian nuclear aspirations, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and women's rights, economic development, and religious rights and democracy in the Muslim world.

The address, billed as a fence-mending mission between the U.S. and Islam, urged those present and the people across the globe viewing the speech on television to enter a new, productive and peaceful chapter in their relationship.

"I know there are many -- Muslim and non-Muslim -- who question whether we can forge this new beginning," Obama said, emphasizing that "it is easier to start wars than to end them. It is easier to blame others than to look inward, to see what is different about someone than to find the things we share."

Obama explored the Palestinian and Israeli conflict, endorsing a two-state solution and urging compromise and understanding between "two peoples with legitimate aspirations."

And then he entered into the conflict's thickets, understanding claims from both sides. He said the United States "does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements" seen by Muslims as impediments to Middle East peace. "This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop."

Calling America's "strong bond" with Israel "unbreakable," he said, "It is based upon cultural and historical ties and the recognition that the aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied." He denounced the denial of the Holocaust and anti-Semitic stereotyping, and criticized anyone who would threaten Israel's destruction.

Expounding on the plight of Palestinians, Obama said "it is also undeniable that the Palestinian people -- Muslims and Christians -- have suffered in pursuit of a homeland. For more than 60 years they have endured the pain of dislocation. Many wait in refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza and neighboring lands for a life of peace and security that they have never been able to lead," he said. Watch Obama discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"They endure the daily humiliations -- large and small -- that come with occupation. So let there be no doubt: The situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable. America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity and a state of their own."

Obama also denounced Palestinian violence and the rejection by some of Israeli existence -- both seen by Israel as obstacles to peace. The president conjured the lessons of America's civil rights movement when he urged Palestinians to "abandon violence."

"Resistance through violence and killing is wrong, and it does not succeed. For centuries, black people in America suffered the lash of the whip as slaves and the humiliation of segregation," he said. "It was not violence that won full and equal rights. It was a peaceful and determined insistence upon the ideals at the center of America's founding."

The conflict, Obama said, needs to be seen from a larger perspective, not from the viewpoint of one side or another. And both sides must live up to the responsibilities of the moribund "road map" peace process, he said.

He added that the Hamas movement -- which controls Gaza -- and has some support among Palestinians must end violence and recognize past agreements. He also urged Arab states to no longer use the conflict to distract the Arab world from the other problems it faces. "The only resolution is for the aspirations of both sides to be met through two states, where Israelis and Palestinians each live in peace and security," he said.

Obama said that any nation, including Iran, "should have the right to access peaceful nuclear power if it complies with its responsibilities under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty." He said such a "commitment" is at the treaty's core and "it must be kept for all who fully abide by it. And I am hopeful that all countries in the region can share in this goal."

Israelis and Palestinians had very different reactions to Obama's speech on the future of the Mideast, reported The New York Times.

For right-wing Israelis, the speech by the U.S. president was an abdication of America's historic role as a close Israel ally. Those quoted in the Times were especially angered by a seeming comparison between the Holocaust and Palestinian suffering. "How dare Obama compare Arab refugee suffering to the six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust?" asked Aryeh Eldad, a parliamentarian from the rightist National Union Party.

In Gaza, Hamas' deputy foreign minister criticized the speech for not going far enough to advocate for Palestinian rights. "He points to the right of Israel to exist, but what about the refugees and their right of return?" Ahmed Youssef said of Obama's remarks. "As a legal specialist (Obama) should know people are under occupation, and they can not recognize the state while they are under occupation, only afterwards. Why put pressure on Arabs and Muslims to recognize Israel while it is not recognizing our existence?"

Reaction from an Eighth Grader

By MaiNoah Katz (Commentary)

My name is MaiNoah Katz. I'm an eighth grader living in the town of Neve Daniel in Gush Etzion, which is in Judea in the Land of Israel. I live next to an ancient highway where a big part of the history of our people took place.

When I walk from my house to the bus top, I pass the spot where our father Abraham first saw the place where G-d told him to sacrifice Isaac. It's the road that Joseph took when he was sent by his father to look for his brothers. A little further on is where Elazar the Maccabee was crushed by an elephant in one of the battles against the Greeks, which is why the community next to mine is called Elazar.

A short distance from there is an ancient mikveh, where pilgrims coming to Jerusalem would immerse during Second Temple times. Close to our own time, the defenders of Gush Etzion held off the Egyptian army in 1948 and that way saved Jerusalem for the State of Israel.

And now: President Obama wants to tell me that this is not my home?! That I'm a stranger and a foreigner here? If I don't belong here, where do I belong?

Any Jewish kid knows that whenever the world called us strangers and foreigners, the next step was to chase us out and try to destroy us. We all heard our grandparents describe how, even though we Jews were peaceful and productive citizens in every land we lived in, we were always eventually hated and hunted. That is until G-d showed us open miracles and we finally returned home . . . because this was our only home. Just like our prophets foretold thousands of years ago.

When I was 9 years old, my parents took me to Gush Katif. They said they wanted me to see with my own eyes what the world really means when they talk about "peace." My brother and I played on the beaches and in the parks. We stayed in the beautiful town of Neve Dekalim that was filled with people and life and singing. And then I saw the most terrible sight in all Jewish history: I saw masses and masses of Israeli soldiers dressed in black, marching into town like the Romans did 2,000 years before to destroy it all.

Gush Katif taught me what politicians mean when they talk "peace" and that history hasn't changed: the world continues to blame the Jews for all kinds of terrible things, telling all kinds of terrible lies. But, because I've been lucky enough to grow up here -- not only learning the Bible, but surrounded by it; not only learning Jewish history, but living it -- I know who I am and I know where I belong. And that's right here. Because this is the only place where the Jewish people do belong.

Iran to Obama: "Sweet Talk" Not Enough for Muslims

By Reuters

Iran's supreme leader said on Thursday the United States was deeply hated in the Middle East and told President Barack Obama that "beautiful" speeches alone would not improve its image in the Muslim world. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the hatred felt toward America could not be changed with "slogans" but that different U.S. action was needed.

In a break from the policies of his predecessor George W. Bush, Obama is offering improved ties with the Islamic Republic if it "unclenches its fist." Iranian leaders say they want to see a real shift in the policies of their old foe. "The nations of this part of the world ... deeply hate America because during many years they have seen violence, military interference, rights violations, discrimination ... from America," Khamenei said in a televised speech.

"Even if they give sweet and beautiful talks to the Muslim nation ... that will not create a change," said Khamenei, Iran's most powerful figure with the final say on all matters of state. "Nothing will change with speeches and slogans."

He also called Israel, which Iran does not recognize, a "cancerous tumor in the heart" of the Muslim world. Israel, widely believed to be the Middle East's only nuclear power, has repeatedly described Iran's nuclear activities as a threat to its existence and neither it nor Washington have ruled out military action if diplomacy fails to resolve the row.

Khamenei accused the United States, which Iranian leaders often refer to as the "Great Satan" guilty of "global arrogance", of lying about Tehran's nuclear ambitions. "The Iranian nation has repeatedly announced that it does not want nuclear weapons ... keeping nuclear arms would create a big danger and trouble and even if they pay us we do not want it," he said.

Esther Pollard Appeals to Obama for Her Husband's Release


The wife of Jonathan Pollard read a letter to President Barack Obama appealing for her husband's release during a protest rally opposite the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem Wednesday night.

The demonstration was aimed at Obama's "cold shoulder" towards Israel. Pollard is serving a life sentence in a U.S. prison for spying for Israel.

"Mr. Obama, my husband Jonathan Pollard has now served more than six times the usual sentence for the offense he committed," she said. "After more than two decades of the harshest afflictions in prison, including seven years in solitary confinement, it is time to release him, before it is too late for America to make amends before the Almighty God of Israel.

"Senior American officials who have seen the secret files and the full record of the Pollard case are all on record that there is nothing in the file to justify the Draconian sentence that Jonathan Pollard is serving."

Esther Pollard called on Obama to "take to heart the words of King Solomon (Ecclesiastes 12: 13-14): `The sum of the matter when all has been considered: Fear God and keep his commandments, for that is man's whole duty. For God will judge every deed - even everything hidden -whether good or evil.' Therefore Mr. Obama, 'Let the groaning of the prisoner come before you; according to the greatness of your power; set free those who are condemned to die.' (Psalms 79:11).

"Set my husband, Jonathan Pollard, free and send him home now to the holy city of Jerusalem, the indisputable heart and soul of the Jewish Nation which dwells in Zion; the eternally united and indivisible capital of the Jewish State of Israel - and may God bless!" she said.

Jonathan Pollard has been imprisoned since November 1985 after his conviction on a single count of passing classified information to an American ally - Israel. The normal sentence for this offense is 2-4 years, and his unprecedented life sentence was in direct violation of his plea bargain arrangement. He has long been in a maximum security prison, under difficult conditions.

U.S. Appellate Court Justice Steven Williams has called the Pollard case a "fundamental miscarriage of justice," and even James Woolsey - former head of the CIA, a body that has traditionally opposed clemency for Pollard - believes Pollard should be released.

Former U.S. Ambassador Dennis Ross, who has been involved in shaping U.S. policy in the Middle East under Presidents Bush Sr., Clinton and Bush Jr., has said that Pollard's sentence was excessive, and that he told all three presidents that Pollard should be released. "Pollard has been in jail for so long," Ross said in December 2006, "that whatever facts he might know would have little if any effect on national security today."

60 Percent of Israelis Don't Trust Obama


Even before Barack Obama's historic "reconciliation speech" in Cairo on Thursday, the majority of the Israeli public – sixty percent - don't trust the president to consider and protect Israel's interests during his efforts to improve relations between America and the Muslim world.

Fifty-five percent felt Obama leans in favor of the Palestinians. Only 5 percent said Obama supports the Israeli stance, while 31 percent said they feel he is neutral, a poll published on Thursday showed.

The War and Peace Index, published on Ynet once a month, showed that 65 percent of the respondents feel Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's trip to Washington was unsuccessful, while 19 percent feel it was successful.

Nonetheless, the majority of the respondents – 56 percent feel the stance Netanyahu presented to the US was neither too rigid, nor too lenient, but just right. Thirteen percent said the prime minister's position was too rigid, while 9 percent said it was too lenient. The rest said they didn't know.

The sweeping majority (67 percent) of the Jewish public in Israel still believes there is no chance for an agreement with the Palestinians that doesn't include the two states for two people's formula, while only 18 percent think there is a chance for an agreement without this formula.

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