- June 8, 2009
Meshaal on Obama speech: Good, but–
A couple of hours ago I finished an hour-long, on-the-record interview here in Damascus with the head of Hamas”s political bureau, Khaled Meshaal.
I started, not surprisingly by asking his reactions to the Speech that Obama made in Cairo earlier in the afternoon.
Of course I listened to the speech. The words are different from those used by Bush. The speech was cleverly written in the way it addressed the Muslim world– using phrases from the Holy Kor”an, and referring to some historical events. And also, in the way it showed respect to the Muslim heritage.
But I think it”s not enough!
What”s needed are deeds, actions on the ground, and a change of policies.
For example, if the Palestinians today don”t find a real change from the situation of siege in Gaza, there”s no point; the speech by itself doesn”t help them. What they”re looking for is an end to the siege and an end to occupation.
We want to see practical steps by the United States such as ending Israel”s settlement activity, putting an end to Israel”s confiscation of Palestinian land and its campaign to Judaize Jerusalem; an end to its demolitions of Palestinian homes; and the removal of the 600 checkpoints that are stifling normal life in the West Bank.
Rather than sweet words from President Obama on democratization, we”d rather see the United States start to respect the results of democratic elections that have already been held. And rather than talk about democratization and human rights in the Arab world, we”d rather see the removal of General Dayton, who”s building a police state there in the West Bank.
In the speech, Obama talked about the Palestinian state, but not its borders. He didn”t mention whether it should comprise all the Palestinian land that was occupied in 1967, or just part of it, as Israel demands.
He made no mention of Jerusalem or the Right of Return.
Yes, he spoke of an end to settlement activity; but can he really get them to stop?
Without addressing these issues, the speech remains rhetoric, not so very different from his predecessor”s.
Just for the record, Obama did mention Jerusalem, when he said he wanted to work for the day,
when Jerusalem is a secure and lasting home for Jews and Christians and Muslims, and a place for all of the children of Abraham to mingle peacefully together as in the story of Isra, when Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed (peace be upon them) joined in prayer.
The Meshaal interview contained in-depth answers to numerous other questions I posed; but I wanted to get this answer published as soon as possible. The other answers ranged across a broad spectrum of issues related to ongoing political/diplomatic dilemmas.
One of his key answers that really stuck in my mind was this:
We”ll work for the success of any project that ends the occupation, restores Palestinian rights, and achieves the right of Palestinians to self-determination.
I”ll publish a lot more from this interview, and from other interviews conducted here, including with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Mouallem, over the days ahead.