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On the Record

Obama’s Jerusalem Speech

Itamar Rabinovich and Martin S. Indyk


Editor’s note: In an interview with Charlie Rose, Martin Indyk and Itamar Rabinovich discuss President Obama’s recent speech in Jerusalem and prospects for the Middle East peace process. Read an excerpt below.

Charlie Rose: Characterize this speech by the President [Martin Indyk].

Martin Indyk: This speech was typical Obama at his best working his oratorical magic on a crowd that lapped it up. He spoke very convincingly about his commitment to Israel’s security and his understand of their security dilemmas, and particularly underlined he was going to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons. But then he went into a riff about peace, and the necessity of peace, and the possibility of peace, and why peace has to be just, even saying; “Put yourself,” you Israelis, “in the shoes of the Palestinians,” and he talked over the heads of the leadership of Israel to say to them “you need to push your leaders, to take risks for peace”

Rose: Basically [Obama] saying; “you [Israel] have to make sacrifices on settlements and other issues in order to get some kind of agreement for Palestinians because that is in fact in the long term interest of your national security.”

Indyk: Exactly. “I care about your security but here is the best way to secure your future…”

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Rose: An agreement with the Palestinians…

Indyk: An agreement with the Palestinians.

Rose: that gives them some sense…

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Indyk: Two states for two people, he talked specifically about a Jewish state.

Rose: What did you think [Itamar Rabinovich]?

Itamar Rabinovich: I agree. It was a very well crafted, very convincing speech. It was in the heart of the mission to speak to the Israeli public. In a way, President Obama has been doing what President Sadat had done in the late 70’s. He came to Jerusalem before the actual negotiations with Mr.Begin in order to build support for the peace with Egypt at the time, and to enable Mr.Begin to make concessions and win public support. So he was investing public diplomacy in the same way trying to build support in the, or among, the Israeli public for the painful concessions that will have to be made.

Rose: And so how do you think the Prime Minister and his party will take this?

Rabinovich: They would have done, they could have done, without this part of the visit but they had their part of the visit in the first day.

Rose: Which was Iran?

Rabinovich: Well we don’t know what went on behind closed doors. But publically, you know Netanyahu came out weakened, hurt, from the elections and one of the criticisms leveled at him was that he mismanaged the relationship with the United States and here was the President all smiles and friendship and patting each other on the back. That was very good for Mr. Netanyahu, he relished it and he took advantage of it, but this was the first course. The second course is somewhat less tasty for the Prime minister.