Barack Obama’s speech to the United Nations was a clear call for peace with recognition of the realities of what is needed before peace can come. He stated clearly that the Palestinians and Israelis must sit down together and work out their issues and borders and that the UN cannot do this, or end hostilities, simply by declaring a Palestinian State.
He rightly brought up the continued threats to the very existence of the State of Israel by its neighbors and the history of the persecution of the Jewish people including the holocaust where 6 million were exterminated simply for who they were. Obama said the world must recognize this truth. But he also said it is past time for the Palestinians to have their own state with clear delineated and safe borders. He said that Palestinian/Israeli negotiations to achieve the two state solution must move forward now. But the reality is that we cannot just wave a wand and make that happen and neither can the United Nations.
The President went on to speak poignantly of the right of Palestinians to bring their children up in a free and secure state and that all Israeli and Palestinian children must have the right to grow up with a future that is based purely on what they can accomplish with the right to pursue their dreams and aspirations.
This was a good speech but everyone recognizes that even great speeches cannot solve the problems that exist. What made this speech even more difficult for the President to make was the need to direct it at both the world and to those who will vote in next year’s Presidential election. He had no choice but to do this because as David Gergen, an advisor to both Democratic and Republican past Presidents said, “The Republican candidates have crossed the line of what had been previously out of bounds which is to criticize a President as he was speaking for the United States to the world.” Rick Perry clearly believes that there are no lines of decency and appropriateness when it comes to attacking a President as he is speaking on an international situation in an international venue. Perry’s attack on the President the day before the speech was meant not to add anything to help move the Israeli/Palestinian peace talks forward but rather for purely partisan consumption of Jewish voters and contributors in next year’s Presidential election.
While the President has the responsibility to speak for the nation, Perry most likely without even knowing it rebuked all past Republican Presidents who share the current President’s positions. Perry’s lack of understanding of the world and his lack of decency make him a scary candidate.
The President in his speech also discussed the world financial situation and that the United Nations must continue to move forward on halting nuclear proliferation and curbing world hunger. He went on to ask for a continued commitment to the fight against HIV/AIDS and in what was an unexpected segment of his speech the President spoke up for the safety of Gays and Lesbians around the world. It was a clear call for civil and human rights and words I have not heard before in a speech to the United Nations. Whether or not the President can convince Palestinian and Israeli leaders to resume negotiations now and whether the United States can avoid using a veto in the Security Council is yet to be seen. But this speech was a good beginning.