June 5th, 2009
12:43 PM ET
9 years ago

Hamas official: After the talk, can Obama walk the walk?

(CNN) - Most people across Muslim and Arab lands viewed President Barack Obama's speech in Cairo, Egypt, as "excellent," a spokesman for the hard-line Palestinian movement Hamas told CNN.

But the official, Ahmed Yousef, interviewed on CNN's "American Morning" from Gaza City, said now there's a question out there on the street: Is the American president "ready to walk the way he talks."

"This is the question," said Yousef, the senior adviser for former Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniya.

In his address to Muslims, Obama called for bridging gaps between Israelis and Palestinians and urged the establishment of a two-state solution. He called for an end to Israeli settlement building and he called for the Palestinians to end violence against the Jewish state.

And he cast a portrait of a grinding Palestinian existence.

"For more than 60 years they have endured the pain of dislocation. Many wait in refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza, and neighboring lands for a life of peace and security that they have never been able to lead," Obama said Thursday.

"They endure the daily humiliations - large and small - that come with occupation. So let there be no doubt: The situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable. America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity and a state of their own."

But at the same time, Obama, while acknowledging that Hamas has some support among Palestinians, said the group has to realize it has

"To play a role in fulfilling Palestinian aspirations, to unify the Palestinian people, Hamas must put an end to violence, recognize past
agreements, recognize Israel's right to exist," Obama said, listing the responsibilities.

The leadership of Hamas, considered by the United States and Israel to be a terrorist organization, won elections in Palestinian territories in 2006, prompting stringent sanctions from the West.

The speech comes months after an eruption of war in Hamas-controlled Gaza, when Israel launched a tough offensive against Hamas militants firing rockets at communities in southern Israel before the forging of a cease-fire that Hamas says is violated by Israel.

While Yousef called Thursday's speech "historical" and cited the president's "wonderful words," he said that Obama didn't call for lifting
Western sanctions in Gaza and for helping the Palestinians. And, he said, more needs to be done to bridge gaps between the West and the Muslim world.

"They're still ignoring that the Palestinians are suffering from the sanctions, and this has become like a crime against humanity. It's collective
punishment endorsed by the people in the West. I hope that we're going to hear something positive and see again action or facts on the ground after this speech," Yousef said.

The two-state solution has been elusive for the state of Israel and the Palestinians. Yousef said the recognition of Israel should be considered until there is an independent Palestinian state. Israel wants recognition of its right to exist before it crafts a peace deal with the Palestinians.

"President Obama is a professor of international law, he understands that you can't ask the people who are under occupation to recognize their occupier. This is against the international law," he said, .

"When we have our own state, a free and independent Palestinian state, then we can talk about this issue of recognition. ... It's too early to talk
about recognition while we are suffering for the last 60 years from the occupation.

Hamas says a "concrete path" is required "on the ground."

There have been promises under the Bush administration for the establishment of a Palestinian state, Yousef said. But the Palestinians "lost
confidence" in the world community because of "Israeli aggression justified by the Americans and the world community."

He now believes the West needs to prove it is "really sincere" about Palestinians concern and is "ready to help the Palestinian to have their own
independent state."

Filed under: President Obama
soundoff (137 Responses)
  1. ron

    The speech was a great start. We are already lightyears ahead of where we were on January 19th.

    Still posters on this blog and idiots like Boehner have nothing but their backwards idealolgies to continue to spew.

    The Southern Strategy is alive and well. If you don't beleive that republicans are racists, just Google "southern strategy"

    June 5, 2009 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  2. panem et circenses

    I saw the speech on TV and read the transcript after that. I have a few questions:

    a) how is he going to pay for all the billions in aid he is promising after he said last week we have no money?
    b) how is he going to ensure that these billions do not end up in terrorists hands?
    c) what is he going to do that hasn't already been done to bring about peace?

    The speech did, indeed, point out that both parties have problems but I did not hear or read anything about how to move forward that was new or different. The definition of insanity is to keep doing what you've always done and expect different results. Or is that the definition of arragance? To do what has always been done but expect different results since YOU are doing it...

    June 5, 2009 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  3. Me

    Only naive people would think that after years of fighting, one Obama speech will solve anything.
    Who believes that? It was a step forward instead of backward for a change, which in itself is worthy of praise, but that's a long road to walk. Nothing will happen overnight, nothing may ever happen, but it won't be for lack of trying this time. Patience.

    June 5, 2009 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  4. Laurie in Spokane

    Neither Israel or the Palestine leadership are blameless in this matter. It takes both of them to compromise, possibly by Israel ceasing to build settlements on the land designed for a Palestinian homeland, and by the Palestinians stopping their use of violence/murder against civilians. Their use of violence only steels people against them.

    June 5, 2009 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  5. Billy Ray Valentine, Philadelphia, PA

    When they recognize Israel's existence, then peace can progress, complete with a plan for statehood. Until that day, it is just talk.
    Giving up Gaza provided little peace to Israel, as daily rocket attacks prove. Until the Israeli's built the wall, suicide bombers were igniting on a regular basis. At least the wall (combined with taking out Sadaam Hussein, who was giving money to families of suicide bombers for blowing themselves up) has eliminated these type of attacks. Hamas needs to understand that violence will only result in a military response, which Barry will be politically unable to prevent.

    June 5, 2009 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  6. RI Moderate

    So now we're negotiating with terrorists. Wonderful. A terrorist organization that is a puppet organization for the Iranian islamo-fascists!

    Hey, let's ask Hugo Chavez to run GM -BO fired the last guy, I guess he has the power to hire as well...

    June 5, 2009 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  7. pheonix86

    go ubama go someone read that cairo speech to cause it was to much big words and more than those one-liners the GOPers send my way i hate that im so stooopid..

    June 5, 2009 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  8. John

    What change does America need to make? We are more than willing to work with Muslim countries. But this is a two way street. It can't be just America doing everything to appease Muslim countries. These countries must also change and be more open to new ideas and possibilities. But right now, all they do is dig their heels in the sand and expect us to do all the changing to appease them.

    June 5, 2009 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  9. Steve

    Empty rhetoric is what you get with Obama. He has broken more than 10 campaign promises already, for example. Hamas is right to question if he will back up his statements made in Cairo yesterday.

    June 5, 2009 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  10. Angie in Pa

    Hamas President Obama has Reached out the Question is Hamas are you gonna walk the walk?

    June 5, 2009 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  11. Fred the Moderate

    Can they walk the walk? We keep stepping out there, but it really is up to them to resolve this.

    June 5, 2009 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  12. Brian

    No one said anything about one speech solving everything. Man people on these chat boards have tunnel vision. At least the speech was a step in the right direction down a very long road of changes needing to be made from many countries. And comment to Right Leading Independent – if you are not seeing changes then you are refusing to look or admit there are changes. It is unbelieveable how people hold a grudge because their candidate didn't win an election. And Independent throwing in the name calling like that is going to impress your readers into beliveing you are a credible source to be listened to, not.

    June 5, 2009 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  13. New Day

    The question, Mr. Yousef is, can you walk the walk? President Obama is giving both the Palestinians and the Israelis a golden opportunity for peace. Are they going to make the best of it or continue acting like 2 spoiled children?

    June 5, 2009 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  14. Saul-virginia

    To Joe,

    We push to have a democratically elected government in Palestine and the people overwhelmingly voted for HAMAS. I condemn the use of suicide bombers to attack israel categorically. But also We have to deal with them however and work on getting the Palestinians a more ideal government. We don't have much of a choice until we give Palestinians a better choice than the combative HAMAS.

    June 5, 2009 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  15. David

    It sounds like each country wants peace and wants respect. They just need a mediator to facilitate the process, and this is where the Obama Administration comes in.

    This is an issue was long in the making, but the deep hole dug by Bush over the past 8 years is what President Obama has to help dig the world out of.

    Very much like the economic mess we have in the US that President Obama has to resolve, while dealing with the Republican Extremist.

    June 5, 2009 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  16. Karine

    Obama's speeches are too much rhetoric and not enough substance.
    Americans fell for it but I doubt that the rest of the world will.

    June 5, 2009 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  17. The Unshrub

    Kathy: Your words would mean something it YOU were not just repeating what you have heard from others.

    June 5, 2009 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  18. VON BISMARK,Vienna.

    These Hamas militants should understand that their stance will never bring about the Palestinian State.Yes recognising Isreal is surrender and this will not be the first if they do.

    June 5, 2009 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  19. Rob

    If by walk the walk they mean Obama turning his back on Israel and embracing terrorist organizations, I'd say he's doing a stellar job of that.

    June 5, 2009 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  20. fed up

    Now the rest of the world will see the two-faced Obama we Americans know and love.

    June 5, 2009 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  21. nick

    Hamas sounds a little like Rep. Bohner. I wonder if Hamas is getting their marching orders from the Republican Party. The Republican Party seems to need all the help it can get in their efforts to knock our President down a peg or two. I bet they promised Hamas something in return for their assistance in doubting our Presidents word...

    June 5, 2009 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  22. Peter E

    As early as 2003 President Bush repeatedly told Israel that its illegal settlement activities must end. He also told Hamas its terror attacks must cease. He has advocated for a Two-State solution very consistently, in significant speeches in 2003, 2005, and as late as 2008. Obama is taking Bush's speeches nearly verbatim and repeating them. This is nothing new as the removement of Israeli settlements of expansion, and the Two-State solution have been the official US government policy, unchanged for 40 years! To say that Obama's plan is in any way different is just being ignorant about history!

    June 5, 2009 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  23. Ken in NC

    The door has been opened and an open hand extended to all parties to sit and come to terms. One speech will not bring peace but if people never stop fighting there can never be peace. To start the peace process the fighting must stop. Gun Boat Diplomacy only works while the end of the gun is in your face. Put the gun down.

    June 5, 2009 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  24. DCMata

    President Obama continues to be impressive. We are fortunate he is the man leading our Country, at this time.

    The childish bulling foreign policy tactics and financial ideology has left our Country in serious trouble.

    Megan McCain is impressive. She is where the future of our party should be.
    Liz Cheney is self serving with the same disasterous policies of her father!!!

    June 5, 2009 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  25. Peter E

    For those who want to know the historical record of the US government on such promises of Middle-East peace, I dare you to look up Bush Jr.'s speeches from 2003 onward and compare them with Obama's 'historic' speech. Obama stole the whole speech almost verbatim from parts in those Bush speeches! Obama's policies are 100% the same as his predecessor's (or for that matter, for all presidents in the last 40 years) his rhetoric is exactly the same as well. Go figure what that will mean for his actual actions in the upcoming year.

    June 5, 2009 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
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