Quoting from the Koran, a passage to “always speak the truth”, US President Barack Obama had a blunt message for the two main protagonists in the Middle East peace process. In his keynote Cairo speech he told both sides – the bottom line is Israel’s right to exist and the need for a Palestinian state. “The only resolution is for the aspirations of both sides to be met through two states where Palestinians and Israelis each live in peace and security,” said Obama.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said the speech proved there was a new and different American policy towards the Palestinian issue. Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat added: “President Obama’s speech laid the ground for the two-state solution. Now I hope that in the next few months President Obama will lay a real plan with timelines, monitors and mechanisms to implement and translate the vision of a two state vision to a realistic political track.” Israel remained characteristically cautious in its response, reiterating its commitment to peace while considering national interest first and foremost. Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said: “Israel shares the hope expressed by Presisdent Obama that his efforts will indeed lead to a new period of peace and reconciliation in the Middle east, a period where Israel will be recognised as a Jewish state and that we can live without fear of violence and terrorism.” Regev made no mention of Jewish settlements, which Obama said should not be expanded. Nor did he refer to Palestinian statehood.