‘The hug and the snub’

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Israeli newspapers were unanimous on Thursday in characterising US President Barack Obama’s UN speech as hugely supportive of Israel, but some argued it was perhaps too much of a good thing. “The American embrace” was the front-page headline of the Maariv daily, while the top-selling Yediot Aharonot took a similar line, summing up the impact of Obama’s remarks for Israel and the Palestinians as “The hug and the snub.” “Obama not only adopted all of the Israeli arguments against recognising a Palestinian state by means of the UN, he adopted the basic Israeli narrative,” Yediot said. “It is no wonder that Abu Mazen, who sat in the auditorium during the speech, hung his head in his hands in disbelief and despair,” it said, using the nom-de-guerre of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas. Most papers made veiled reference to next year’s US presidential elections as a major factor in determining the tone and content of Obama’s address.
“That is not an insignificant message,” the paper said. In his speech to the General Assembly, Obama reiterated his opposition to the Palestinians’ attempt to win UN membership for their state, saying there was no “shortcut” to peace. “Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the UN – if it were that easy, it would have been accomplished by now,” he said. The address included references to Israel’s hostile neighbours, to suicide bombs on its buses and to the trauma of the Holocaust – but made no mention of its settlement building on land the Palestinians want for a future state. Openly delighted with the speech was Israel’s hardline Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who told the Haaretz newspaper the address was “the best he has ever delivered.”
“This speech told the Palestinians that there is no shortcut,” he said. “I hope it will convince them to come back to reality and to resume peace negotiations.” But Yediot columnist Eitan Haber cautioned that there would be a price for Israel to pay further down the line.
“The Zionist turns of phrase that were uttered yesterday have a price tag affixed to them, and payment will be due – if not tomorrow, then on the day after,” he wrote. Haaretz took a much dimmer view of Obama’s UN address, with columnist Akiva Eldar slamming the president’s “passivity” and his “graceless courting of the Israeli govt.”
“Speeches like those presidential candidate Obama gave on Wednesday will not advance peace one iota,” he wrote. “Worse yet, Obama’s passivity could pave the way to a (Palestinian) civil uprising against Israel and its American patron, and/or lead to the loss of the Palestinian partner to the two-state solution.”
Hundreds protest in Ramallah over Obama’s UN speech: Around 1,000 Palestinians gathered in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Thursday to protest against US President Barack Obama’s speech to the United Nations.
“Shame on those who pretend to be democratic,” read one banner held up by the crowds who gathered outside the Muqataa, the headquarters of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas. “America is the head of the snake,” read another placard carried by demonstrators, who massed by a pavilion decked out with the flags of the more than 120 nations who have recognised a Palestinian state.
Information ministry official Mutawakil Taha accused Obama of sounding “like an Israeli settler,” and said his speech came in the context of Washington’s longstanding defence of Israel at the United Nations. “Fourty-two US vetos at the UN have enabled Israel to continue apartheid in the region and Obama’s speech exposed America, which pretends to support the Arab revolutions,” he told AFP. The Palestinian media was equally scathing about Obama’s address, which came two days before Abbas is to formally submit a request that the UN admit a Palestinian state as a member.