I used AIPAC's version of it, because there are several other versions of his speech out there, and this one clearly shows how positively Obama's speech was received, irrespective of the fact that he is the president.
It might not be his best speech, but it certainly was one of his most courageous, in the sense that no previous president, nor this one, has had to address this conference in such a hostile climate. Israeli Prime Minister Netenyahu has repeatedly managed to kick him, Vice President Biden and Secretary Clinton in the nuts or ovaries, and get away with it. When he objected to the way Bibi kicked Biden in the nuts in 2010, the U.S. Senate, including Mark Begich, told him to bite his tongue and take it like a eunuch. His Middle East speech last week was pilloried severely by all the usual suspects and then some.
So was the AIPAC speech. Here's the Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin:
He was not booed when he entered; most stood and offered brief applause. Still, the crowd during the speech had long periods of stony silence, and audible boos were heard when he brought up his plan to base an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal on the 1967 border lines. President Obama took nothing back from his foreign policy speech on Thursday and blamed the press for any controversy. He doubled down, making this upcoming presidential election a time for choosing for friends of Israel.
Obama must be very certain that liberal Jews will enthusiastically support him no matter what. And there is evidence he is right. Josh Block, senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute and a former AIPAC spokesman, e-mailed: “It [the speech] was a strong reaffirmation of the US-Israel relationship, and was an important and positive change from his remarks on Thursday. It reflected an important continuity of US policy going back to President Johnson.”
This is the sort of spin that pro-Israel Democrats use to justify voting for Obama. But there is a reality that can’t be avoided. This president once again has proved an apt negotiator on behalf of the Palestinians and a thorn in Israel’s side. Now is a time of choosing for the American Jewish community, for Israel and for Congress. And if Obama should be reelected in 2012 one can only imagine how hostile he will become toward the Jewish state.
Here's Pamela Geller, who was there, predictably over the top:
When BHO was introduced, he was given a standing ovation. One has to wonder: if Hitler came to AIPAC, before the world became aware of the Holocaust, would he, too, have received a standing ovation, out of respect for a head of state? No, I am not equating Obama to Hitler; what I am saying is that not every head of state is worthy of respect just because he is a head of state. And many did not stand up. Obama fell off the teleprompter when he was describing Iran as wanting to wipe Israel off the "face of the map." If Sarah Palin had said that they wanted to wipe Israel "off the face of the map," "face of the map" would be the new bumper sticker and the crawl at CNN all through the news cycle.
Once again, he cited "the new generation of Arabs changing the region." As if this new generation of goosesteppers have any other intention than to destroy the State of Israel -- which is why the peace treaty with Egypt is now in jeopardy.
Obama began to whine that his call for a return to the Auschwitz borders was not his original idea. But did anyone really think he was capable of an original idea? His copout was that these 1967 borders had been whispered about behind the scenes for years by previous administrations. But this weak excuse rings hollow. You don't publicly start negotiations with your end position. The Muslims in Gaza, and in Judea and Samaria, have given nothing, have agreed to nothing. Their only movement has been toward radicalization by aligning with Hamas.
There were many more right-wing denizens either claiming he was poorly received or that he had somehow betrayed America.
Philip Weiss thought it to be a better speech than I take it to be:
Today’s speech by Barack Obama to AIPAC was a historic speech, maybe the most remarkable speech he has ever given. For a masked and calculating man, it was incredibly sincere. For just below the politically-hogtied phrases and praises for the Israel lobby that controls his future, it was filled with rage. When he spoke over and over of a Jewish democratic state and then said that the world was changing, and spoke about that Jewish state upholding universal values that Americans also share, I heard vicious irony: You want a religious state, you have the power to demand it of me, because you are the Israel lobby, well time is running out on you.
And when he finished his speech by reminding the Jews before him that we are fellow Americans, I thought it was a jab at their dual loyalty.
The Israel lobby has never been so naked. Walt and Mearsheimer’s estimations of its character 6 years ago look meager now when the Wall Street Journal writes openly of “Jewish donors,” something Walt and Mearsheimer refuse to say, and when Obama begins his speech by reminding AIPAC of what a good boy he was back in Chicago 2004, when he reached out to “Rosey” when he thought abut running, Lee Rosenberg, the slightly cadaverous media executive who brought Obama to the podium today, and is surely hated by many in the room for doing so.
And all the boilerplate of the speech, the endless celebration of the deep ties between Israel and the U.S., came off as so much boilerplate, lobby speak. I know I have to say this, and you know it, too, Obama is saying, but it is boilerplate.
He is angry. I thought he wasn’t going to mention the word 1967 or the controversy it set off the other day. But he surprised me by saying it 3 or 4 times and going right into the controversy. So he is angry at being shown up by Netanyahu, whom he mentioned only once, in passing. He is angry that as John Mearsheimer said yesterday at Move Over Aipac, Netanyahu has taken on Obama three times and defeated him three times.
I agree more fully with Phil's observation:
The beauty of the speech for me was about the Arab spring and the impatience of history.
Obama said that time is running out on the endless peace process. I was abusing him through most of the speech but when he said, "The world is moving too fast," I cried out in pleasure. Obama knows what we on the left know: that because of the Arab spring and the millions on the Arab street whose demands he dignified today, and because of the disgust of peoples everywhere with the American-led peace process-- in Latin America, Europe, Asia and the Arab world, as he reminded the lobby-- the world is sick of a Jim Crow state.
Josh Marshall, who sort of live blogged the speech, also thought this was a major foreign policy statement:
Sticks to commitment to policies that will secure Israel's future, even at the expense of opportunistic attacks and political controversy.
Obliquely and with respect to his audience, in his speech to AIPAC today, President Obama also responded to Prime Minister Netanyahu's repeated lies about what President Obama said only the day before.
Just as no man is an island, no country can be either. On its present course Israel is on its way to becoming a pariah state, a status in which it cannot indefinitely or even perhaps long survive. Neither the fact that Israel faces a profound cultural animosity among the region's Arab populations nor the bad faith that often greets its actions nor even the anti-Semitism that is sometimes beneath the animus changes this essential fact. The make-up of the 21st century world is simply not compatible with a perpetual military occupation of another people, especially one that crosses a boundary of ethnicity and religion. Only the willfully oblivious can't see that.
I've had so many conversations with American and Israeli hardliners who say essentially, why give up this land as long as the Palestinians won't do this or that thing? Such folly. As though the settlements of the West Bank were a thing of great value as opposed to a lethal threat. Like you insist on keeping the knife in your belly as opposed to removing it at the first opportunity because someone else you're negotiating with won't do what you want.
Netanyahu believes that US power is forever and that the US political consensus to support Israel in almost any policy choice it makes will never change. So he can simply ignore the currents of history and international affairs and thumb his nose at every other country in the world. But neither is true.
Serious critiques of this speech and its influence on both future Israeli and American policy, and on the budding 2012 contest for big bucks funding are starting to trickle in.
My assessment? People who stridently prefer the views of a controversial prime minister of a foreign country over those of our own president need to be evaluated about those views, no matter which foreign country that might be. Israel is no exception.
Obama brought more into his speech to AIPAC, in terms of attempting to deal with religion, tribal passion and the bottom line of Democratic Party campaign funding, than any politician or candidate ever has. In that sense, it was a very courageous speech.
I was pissed when I listened to it the first time, that he did not give Palestinians the humanity they certainly deserve. They're struggling against oppressive regimes as much as any disenfranchised population in the Middle East. I don't mean the Israelis so much as Fatah, Hamas, and the failed non-state that is the Palestinian authority.
Nor did he put his foot down on the fucking elephant in the room - the Israelis announced huge expansions of West Bank settlements this past week, and will no doubt announce more in response to the AIPAC speech. That would have diminished the power of the lecture, though.
It was a lecture.
A surprisingly well received one.