The Cairo Pivot: Reactions Abroad


Above is the BBC's tag cloud for the speech. Der Speigel's Gabor Steingart:

He gave a courageous speech, stating that Islam is a power for peace, that the Koran is a call for peacefulness, and that the US president finds nothing wrong with women who wear a the hijab. He added that the US must, once and for all, stop trying to export its particular vision of democracy. No Western leader before him had been as empathetic and obliging in an address to the world's 48 countries with majority Islamic populations. Obama offered the Muslims nothing less than reconciliation and partnership. It was a magnificent speech.

Ali's Notepad:

I think his biggest advantage was that he was able to get to talk to the audience on a personal level, especially with his constant references to verses of the Qur'an. He was very honest, which I think people appreciated, and his straight-forward approach got the audience cheering. He addressed all the current issues, all very controversial without without any tension, telling it like it is. ... Obama said it himself, it is just a speech. Though the fact that he was addressing the subjects with such confidence and intellect seemed like more than Bush ever did for the Arab world.

Shmuel Rosner:

Obama's Cairo speech had a misleading quality to it. The president was speaking the rhetoric of Reagan, while intending to execute the policy of George H. W. Bush. Conveying the image of an emotional, forthcoming, and understanding bridge-builder, he is actually a cautious and calculated leader, wanting to scale down America's foreign policy--back to the days when "interests" were king, not "ideologies." Obama is a new type of the old "realist." He is a realist with feelings--one that can naturally combine a call for halting Iran's nuclear weapons because of "America's interests" (and others') with his personal story of "an African-American with the name Barack Hussein Obama."


Settler leaders reacted with frustration.... "Today, the State of Israel is paying the price of its leaders' defeatism," Yesha Council said in a statement. "Hussein Obama gave priority to Arab lies, which have always been told with determination and daring, at the expense of the Jewish truth, which has been said in a weak and unconfident voice."

Zalman Shoval, Netanyahu adviser and former Israeli ambassador to the US:

The speech was very politically correct. It was not surprising, and there was no reason for the panic that may have arisen here or there in Israel.

The Arabist:

Saying that the Palestinians’ situation is intolerable is a fantastic move, as well as making it clear that there is a special US-Israel relationship. The emphasis of the US, and the Quartet, in getting all Palestinians to adhere to the Quartet conditions is wrong-headed, though, since there is no similar demand on the Israelis to give up violence. I would have liked to see a more explicit demand to lift the siege of Gaza and allow reconstruction to take place. Great reiteration of the demand that settlement expansion stop, let’s hope for follow-through on this in the battle with the Netanyahu government in Israel.

Israel Matzav:

It seems that in Obama's world, the only terrorists are al-Qaeda. ... [I]n Obama's world, Hamas and Hezbullah are no longer terror organizations. He never calls Hamas a terror organization, and he compares Hamas' violence to Israel's 'settlements.' ... [There] are the only two mentions of the word "Hamas" in the speech. There is no mention of Hezbullah in the speech. That's right, the organization that until 9/11/2001 had murdered more Americans than any other terror organization is no longer a terror organization according to Obama.

Univ. of Haifa's Avraham Ben-Zvi:

The speech was disappointing, addressing too many issues. When such high expectations are built up, one expects a founding declaration, a central thesis. This was more of a mixed salad. It touched many issues -- although elegantly, but lacked a central thesis. ... The first part bordered on flattery, apologetics for all the 'white man's sins.' The apology was too sweeping, too long. ... [I]n the end, it contained many trees but very little forest.

Egyptian student Ingy Hassieb:

I like his positivity the way he addressed the pros of Islam instead of the cons was a great and very logical way to start off. The way Islam is portrayed in the media right now is very one-sided and President Obama managed to acknowledge the distinction between extremism and Islam. Now, this is very important and is something that was not touched upon by the Bush administration. Ever since 9/11 Islam has been portrayed in a very negative light, as the religion of terrorism, and no one had managed to change or at least begin to work on changing that view, until today.

Jordanian student Samura Atallah:

I had higher expectations for the speech not to say it wasn’t appeasing or significantly constructive in U.S.-Muslim relations discourse. I was hoping President Obama would offer more concrete solutions, rather than rhetorical statements, because that was what the average citizen in the region was waiting for.

Iraqi student Ahmed Mustafa:

[H]e pretended as if he had the magic key when he talked about unemployment in the world and some other problems. ... But he didn’t apologize for the many mistakes American troops made in Iraq and Afghanistan. ... It was not that necessary to mention the 6 millions Jews victims … but he didn’t mention the Palestinian victims.

Likud MK Danny Danon:

The president has crossed all lines. His implied comparison between the Israeli government and the Nazi regime said everything. He has made a covenant with the Arab world and rewarded it for more than 60 years of aggression.

National Union MK Michael Ben-Ari:

The Zionist vision of the rebuilding of the Land of Israel is stronger than any president or government. We outlasted Pharaoh, and we will outlast Obama.

Blake Housnell, in Cairo:

I cringed when he said this line: "For over a thousand years, Al-Azhar has stood as a beacon of Islamic learning, and for over a century, Cairo University has been a source of Egypt's advancement." Oddly, he pronounced Al-Azhar as "ulazar," and not "al azz har," as it should be pronounced. You'd think he would have been coached on that one. (Michael Goldfarb will be disappointed to learn that the U.S. president is not a secret Arabic speaker after all.)