"I have to admire the residents of Iroquois territory for assuming that they have a right to determine where Jews lives in Jerusalem."
Thus did Israeli government press director Daniel Seamen caustically dismiss President Obama's opposition to Israel's right to "natural growth" of its settlements in Arab East Jerusalem and on the West Bank.
Though Obama's address in Cairo broke no new ground, it confirmed to the world that a new day has arrived and a sea change has taken place. The Israel-centric Middle East policy of George W. Bush is dead. And with the policy change has come rhetorical change.
With Bush, it was "axis of evil," "you are with us or you are with the terrorists," "regime change," a "green light" for war on Hezbollah in Lebanon and on Hamas in Gaza, and "this war is a struggle between good and evil."
With Obama in Cairo, it was all about "a new beginning" and "mutual respect" between the United States and an Islamic world of 1.2 billion.
Where Bush sought to isolate Syria as a state sponsor of terror, Obama has sent diplomats and is sending the U.S. military to Damascus to work together to halt al-Qaida infiltration into Iraq. Return of the Golan Heights may be back on the table.
Where Bush said Iraq's drive for weapons of mass destruction threatened America and the world, Obama calls Iraq "a war of choice," and re-commits to bring all U.S. combat troops home before 2012 and to seek no permanent bases there.
Where Israeli hawks push for pre-emptive U.S. strikes on Iran's nuclear facilities, Obama says Iran "should have the right to access peaceful nuclear power if it complies with its responsibilities under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty."
As there is no hard evidence Iran has gone beyond the NPT, this points to a resolution of the nuclear issue, if Tehran can provide solid assurances it has no clandestine weapons program.
Where Bush refused to meet with Yasser Arafat or recognize Hamas' election victory, and outsourced Mideast policy to Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert, Obama has confronted Bibi Netanyahu and handed Israel an ultimatum: Halt all settlement growth, now, and come back to me with your plan for a Palestinian state.
A collision that could shatter the coalitions of both Bibi and Barack now appears inevitable and imminent. Either the president or prime minister is going to have to back down.
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