Israeli newspapers were unanimous on Thursday in characterising US President Barack Obama’s UN speech as hugely supportive of Israel, but some argued it was perhaps too much of a good thing.
“The American embrace” was the front-page headline of the Maariv daily, while the top-selling Yediot Aharonot took a similar line, summing up the impact of Obama’s remarks for Israel and the Palestinians as “The hug and the snub.”
“Obama not only adopted all of the Israeli arguments against recognising a Palestinian state by means of the UN, he adopted the basic Israeli narrative,” Yediot said.
“It is no wonder that Abu Mazen, who sat in the auditorium during the speech, hung his head in his hands in disbelief and despair,” it said, using the nom-de-guerre of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.
Most papers made veiled reference to next year’s US presidential elections as a major factor in determining the tone and content of Obama’s address.
The right-leaning Jerusalem Post reprinted large chunks of his speech and, in a commentary entitled “Obama tells Israelis what they’ve been waiting to hear,” said it contained “a dose of empathy and understanding” which had been missing from his previous addresses.
“That is not an insignificant message,” the paper said.
In his speech to the General Assembly, Obama reiterated his opposition to the Palestinians’ attempt to win UN membership for their state, saying there was no “shortcut” to peace.
“Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the UN — if it were that easy, it would have been accomplished by now,” he said.
The address included references to Israel’s hostile neighbours, to suicide bombs on its buses and to the trauma of the Holocaust — but made no mention of its settlement building on land the Palestinians want for a future state.
Openly delighted with the speech was Israel’s hardline Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who told the Haaretz newspaper the address was “the best he has ever delivered.”
“This speech told the Palestinians that there is no shortcut,” he said. “I hope it will convince them to come back to reality and to resume peace negotiations.”
But Yediot columnist Eitan Haber cautioned that there would be a price for Israel to pay further down the line.
“The Zionist turns of phrase that were uttered yesterday have a price tag affixed to them, and payment will be due — if not tomorrow, then on the day after,” he wrote.
“The United States has not changed the principles of its policy since 1967, and there was one thing that could have been understood from the president’s speech even though it wasn’t said — just you wait, your day of reckoning will come.”
Haaretz took a much dimmer view of Obama’s UN address, with columnist Akiva Eldar slamming the president’s “passivity” and his “graceless courting of the Israeli government.”
“Speeches like those presidential candidate Obama gave on Wednesday will not advance peace one iota,” he wrote.
“Worse yet, Obama’s passivity could pave the way to a (Palestinian) civil uprising against Israel and its American patron, and/or lead to the loss of the Palestinian partner to the two-state solution.”