Brisbane Times: An opportunity missed, US Jews complain

American Jewish organisations reacted with emotions ranging from disappointment to deep concern at Barack Obama’s speech in Cairo, while conservative commentators accused the US President of selling out American interests.

But among American-Muslim groups it was seen as a groundbreaking acknowledgement of the importance of American-Muslims in US society and a break with the knee-jerk linking of terrorism with Islam.

Mr Obama did not break with the orthodoxy of US policy toward Israel in what he said – he repeated his demands that Israel accept a two-state solution and stop the expansion of settlements in the West Bank – but there were subtle emphases that alarmed elements of the Democrats’ crucial voting bloc: American Jews.

The Anti-Defamation League said the speech missed an opportunity to put into historical context the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, namely that soon after Israel was created it was attacked by six of its Arab neighbours.

The Israel Project, a more conservative group, called for American Jews to write to their congressional representatives and the media stressing the issues that Mr Obama overlooked in his speech, such as stopping the threat of Iran and protecting Israel in other ways.

The conservative radio presenter Rush Limbaugh went further, describing the speech as “embarrassing” and saying Mr Obama “threw Israel over the cliff”.

But Ahmed Rehab, director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Chicago, said the speech “acknowledged the genuine challenges and aspirations of Muslims”.

Elsewhere, the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas said the speech showed there was a “new and different American policy towards the Palestinian issue”.

Even a Hamas official admitted a change in tone, but complained that Mr Obama had not mentioned the people killed in Israel’s incursion into Gaza earlier this year.

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