A reader writes:
The blowing it out of proportion comment mirrors my own reaction to it -- I think that you've been rhapsodizing about the speech a little more than you should. Obama is going to have to deliver something substantial in order to show the islamic world he's serious. It seems pretty clear that the administration has picked settlement reform as the thing he's going to give to the Palestinians. And I think they're going to do it -- I've read that the administration has done a good job of getting democrats in congress on board, including many prominent Jewish members.
A lot of hawks have been saying that diplomacy won't work. And I understand why they say that -- if your position is that the Muslims have no legitimate grievances, and the fact that they're upset just means they're crazy, there's not much to talk about. The point, though, is that it's not just about talking vs. fighting. You have to change your position in some fundamental sense in order to make talking possible. Obama is talking, and he's trying to change his position. A lot of Muslims are suspicious, and they're waiting to see what happens. People in the PA are definitely engaged and very pleased, though. The test will be what happens with the settlements.
If Obama delivers a real change in behavior on the settlements, then I think we'll be in a position to reasonably demand something significant in return. And if we can't get anything significant, then I think that would be a strong sign that people like me (and you, I guess) have been too optimistic about the prospects for diplomacy. The thing is, Obama says a lot of things about gay people, and that's nice, but ultimately, you want him to do something. I'm pretty sure the islamic world is going to have the same reaction. Only it will be worse because they're not starting out from a place of trust the way you did.
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