Live blog of Obama’s Middle East address
May 19th, 2011
11:21 AM ET
4 years ago

Live blog of Obama’s Middle East address

Washington (CNN) - In the wake of the Arab Spring protests across the Middle East and North Africa, President Barack Obama will pledge U.S. economic assistance to Egypt and Tunisia on Thursday in a speech highlighting his administration's revised policies toward the changing region.

1:23 p.m. ET - @clancycnn: It was an important speech. Pivotal? I'm afraid not. Arab/Muslim world will wait and watch - for what actions the U.S. takes.

1:15 p.m. ET - @clancycnn: Several have pointed out Obama said vote for a Palestinian state was "symbolic" and wouldn't create a state. But its a legal move.

1:11 p.m. ET - @arwacnn: #syria activists tell me not happy w/#obama speech, wanted 2 hear him say #assad has lost legitimacy 2 lead & step down #CNNTV #MEspeech

1:12 p.m. ET – Obama has arrived back at the White House following his speech at the State Department.

1:10 p.m. ET - @bencnn: As Obama's #mespeech came to an end some trigger-happy blokes opened up with machine guns outside hotel in Benghazi.

1:09 p.m. ET @clancycnn: The speech was broad but pretty comprehensive. Obama's challenge will be walking the walk - we know he's got the talking part down pat.

1:08 p.m. ET - @KMFlower: Palestinians are not going to have heard much at all in that speech that will change their current political trajectory #cnntv #mespeech

1:05 p.m. ET
@clancycnn: There was no mention of Saudi Arabia, perhaps telling of the tensions with Washington right now. But he was clear on Bahrain.

1:05 p.m. ET @bencnn: As Obama #mespeech finishes, some trigger happy blokes open fire outside hotel in Benghazi

1:04 p.m. ET
- @clancycnn: Obama admitted the obvious: The U-S didn't lead this change, it was spearheaded by the people of Tunisia Egypt Libya Syria Bahrain Yemn

1:02 p.m. ET
- @clancycnn: The tone of the speech may be welcome, but there was no specific "follow through" of action - what people could really expect of Washington

1:01 p.m. ET - @clancycnn: This speech analyzed the Arab Spring and tried to refocus his own view of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

1:00 p.m. ET - @clancycnn: #Obama finishes speech. It was long on enthusiasm and heartfelt support for the change sweeping the Arab and Muslim world.

12:57 p.m. ET
- @edhenrycnn: Aaron David Miller notes Obama border comments "a day before a meeting w/the Israeli Prime Minister will be viewed in negative terms"

12:56 p.m. ET
- @clancycnn: #Obama Majority of Israelis and Palestinians would rather look to the future than be trapped in the past...

12:55 p.m. ET – Obama: "Recognizing that negotiations need to begin with the issues of territory and security does not mean that it will be easy to come back to the table. In particular, the recent announcement of an agreement between Fatah and Hamas raises profound and legitimate questions for Israel – how can one negotiate with a party that has shown itself unwilling to recognize your right to exist. In the weeks and months to come, Palestinian leaders will have to provide a credible answer to that question. Meanwhile, the United States, our Quartet partners, and the Arab states will need to continue every effort to get beyond the current impasse."

12:57 p.m. ET
- @eliselabottcnn: Obama makes bold statements on Israeli-Palestinian conflict but doesn't say he is sending Clinton to region to advance them #MESpeech

12:55 p.m. ET - @arwaCNN: #syria activist says "if #assad steps down wont be bc of #obama, will be bc of us. we have paid a price like no other." #CNNTV #MEspeech

12:53 p.m. ET
@arwacnn: #syria activist rxn 2 #obama comments "I have no idea what he (obama) is waiting for? #Assad 2 kill us all" #CNNTV #MEspeech

12:52 p.m. ET - @edhenrycnn: But Miller notes President Obama stays away from Jerusalem & refugees - was a bone to Israel & means Palestinians don't get all they want

12:51 p.m. ET - @edhenrycnn: Aaron David Miler, former peace negotiator, notes Obama tying '67 borders to "mutually agreed swaps" gives Palestinians some takeaway

12:51 p.m. ET - @edhenrycnn: Significance of Obama on Israel, according to Aaron David Miller, "it goes farther than any other president has gone in a formal address"

12:51 p.m. ET
- Obama: "Ultimately, it is up to Israelis and Palestinians to take action. No peace can be imposed upon them, nor can endless delay make the problem go away. But what America and the international community can do is state frankly what everyone knows: a lasting peace will involve two states for two peoples. Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland for the Jewish people, and the state of Palestine as the homeland for the Palestinian people; each state enjoying self-determination, mutual recognition, and peace."



12:48 p.m. ET
- @clancycnn: #Obama We've tried, expectations unmet. Settlements continue, Palestinians walked away. Stalemate.

12:47 p.m. ET - @clancycnn: #Obama Decades of Arab-Israeli conflict have cast a shadow over the region. Palestinians have never lived in a nation of their own.

12:47 p.m. ET @eliselabottcnn: Something for everyone in #MESpeech

12:46 p.m. ET
@arwaCNN: #Syria state tv broadcasting #obama speech. Will be interesting 2 hear their analysis/comments #CNNTV #MEspeech

12:45 p.m. ET
@clancycnn: #Obama We do not want a democratic Egypt to be saddled with debt - will write off $1 Billion - offer another $1 Billion in credits.

12:44 p.m. ET - @HalaGorani: Will Obama mention #Saudi? RT @Ibishblog @HalaGorani No chance.

12:43 p.m. ET
@clancycnn: #Obama America's support will include G8 plan to help Tunisia and Egypt recover from economic upheaval.

12:43 p.m. ET
– Obama: "The goal must be a model in which protectionism gives way to openness; the reigns of commerce pass from the few to the many, and the economy generates jobs for the young."

12:40 p.m. ET
- Obama: "America will work to see that this spirit prevails – that all faiths are respected, and that bridges are built among them ... What is true for religious minorities is also true when it comes to the rights of women."

"For the region will never reach its potential when more than half its population is prevented from achieving their potential," Obama said.

12:39 p.m. ET - Obama: "What we will oppose is an attempt by any group to restrict the rights of others, and to hold power through coercion – not consent. Because democracy depends not only on elections, but also strong and accountable institutions, and respect for the rights of minorities."

12:38 p.m. ET - @HalaGorani: But also praised #Bahrain govt and said Iran trying to take advantage of situation. #CNNTV #MEspeech

12:37 p.m. ET - @eliselabottcnn: Applause for Obama criticism on regime in #Bahrain.Also says President Saleh in Yemen must make good on committment for transition #MESpeech

12:36 p.m. ET
@HalaGorani: Obama mentions "friend" Bahrain, critical of mass arrests and brute force. #MEspeech #CNNTV

12:36 p.m. ET - @JamjoomCNN: President Obama: "In Sana'a, we heard the students who chanted, the night must come to an end." #yemen #yf

12:36 p.m. ET
– Obama: "Our message is simple: if you take the risks that reform entails, you will have the full support of the United States."


12:34 p.m. ET
- @edhenrycnn: Obama will say: "The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps" ...

12:33 p.m. ET - @clancycnn: #Obama First protests were in streets of Tehran. We will continue to insist the Iranian people deserve their universal human rights.

12:32 p.m. ET - @clancycnn: #Obama Libyan leader will leave or be forced from power...Syria trying to hold power by shooting demonstrators, Assad must start dialogue

12:31 p.m. ET
- @edhenrycnn: Obama on Libya: "Had we not acted ... thousands would have been killed." Gadhafi "doesn't have control over his country" now #MESpeech

12:31 p.m. ET
- @eliselabottcnn: Obama:US supports political transition in the region, not just Tunisia and Egypt but in places where transition hasn't taken place #MESpeech

12:30 p.m. ET @edhenrycnn: Now President turns to Libya, taking aim at Gadhafi for vowing he would hunt down his own people "like rats" #MESpeech #CNNTV

12:29 p.m. ET
@eliselabottcnn: policy of US to promote reform and transitions to democracy across the regio- begins in Egypt and Tunisian where the stakes are high

12:28 p.m. ET
- @eliselabottcnn: Obama: .chance to show American values the dignity of the street vendor in #Tunisia more than the raw power of the dictator

12:27 p.m. ET @arwaCNN: Lebanese man told us wld love 2 hear #obama speak about & see US apply same level of compassion towards Arabs as Israel #CNNTV #MEspeech

12:26 p.m. ET - @eliselabottcnn: Obama: failure to change our approach threatens a deepending spiral of suspicion between America and Arab world. #MESpeech

12:24 p.m. ET – Obama says "calls for change may give way to fierce contest for power," leaving the U.S. to question what role it will play as the "story unfolds." Says America has a stake in "in the self determination of individuals."


12:23 p.m. ET - @bencnn: President Obama forgot to mention #Bahrain in that list of countries where people are crying out for freedom. #MEspeech

12:21 p.m. ET - Obama says Arab Spring "tells us change cannot be denied."

12:20 p.m. ET - @edhenrycnn: Why hasn't WH put out a pre-game text of the entire speech? Is there a surprise?


12:18 p.m. ET
- Obama compares young man who set himself ablaze in Tunisia to the Boston Tea Party and Rosa Parks.

12:17 p.m. ET - @clancycnn: #Obama: OBL Concentrated on destroying, not on building. His movement was already seen as a "dead end" in Middle East.

12:16 p.m. ET - Obama: "We've dealt al Qaeda a huge blow by killing its leader Osama bin laden," who he called a "mass murderer."


12:16 p.m. ET - @eliselabottcnn: Obama: Square by square, town by town, country by country, people have steped up to demand their basic rights #MESpeech

12:15 p.m. ET – Obama: "We know that our own future is bound to this region by the forces of economics and security, by history and by faith."

12:14 p.m. ET
- Obama takes the stage, jokes that Secretary Clinton has traveled so much she is approaching one million frequent flyer miles.

12:13 p.m ET - @clancycnn: Clinton: Tunisians and others across the Middle East have given the world inspiration to claim their universal rights....

12:12 p.m. ET - @edhenrycnn: WH aides saying last-minute edits to blame for President being late #MESpeech

12:11 p.m. ET
- @clancycnn: Hillary Clinton introduces #Obama - hints at leading in "new and innovative ways..."

12:10 p.m. ET - Secretary Clinton, introducing the president stresses the importance of American leadership around the world.

12:08 p.m. ET @clancycnn: One thing to keep in mind, Arab rulers like King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia are MOST UNHAPPY with U.S. treatment of Mubarak.

12:07 p.m. ET - @clancycnn: Still waiting for Obama. I wonder, if he can't push Israel-Pal peace process, will he vote 'No' at the U-N to a Palestinian State?

12:03 p.m. ET
- @arwaCNN: ahead of #obama speech #syria activist says only hope is in own people #CNNTV #MEspeech

12:02 p.m. ET - @eliselabottcnn: State Dept audience for POTUS speech filled w/ Arab ambassadors whose countries suffered, are in the throws of, or about to have revolutions

12:01 p.m. ET – Obama has arrived at State.

11:58 a.m. ET - The presidential motorcade just departed the White House en route to the State Department.

11:56 a.m. ET
@bencnn: I watched US Mideast policy go into a tailspin during the #Egypt revolution. It appears to still be in tailspin cycle. #mespeech

11:53 a.m. ET
- @KMFlower: Differing accounts from on whether Obama will make news on Israel – Palestinian conflict – where are those excerpts?

11:48 a.m. ET
- @bencnn: Whatever pundits say, Obama's #mespeech underscores US confusion about what to do in a region it's been deeply involved in for decades.

11:42 a.m. ET - Speech was scheduled to begin at 11:40 a.m. President is still at the White House (but it's a short drive to State).

11:30 a.m. ET - @edhenrycnn: Aides are tight-lipped but soundingto me the President will NOT callfor pre-1967 borders for Israel.

11:29 a.m. ET - Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will introduce the president before his address at the State Department.

11:18 a.m. ET @KMFlower: Not expecting reaction from Netanyahu tdy on #MEspeech unless Obama makes surprise reference to 67' border as basis for future talks #cnntv

11:16 a.m. ET – Included in the audience are Sen. John Kerry, D-Massachusetts, former Mideast peace envoy George Mitchell and Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, as well as ambassadors from Libya, UAE, Algeria, Yemen, Oman, Saudi, Arabia, Lebanon, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, Egypt, Morocco and Turkey.

11:15 a.m. ET - @natlsecuritycnn: Brookings Shadi Hamid: Obama should apologize in his speech today. http://bit.ly/itw82W

11:12 a.m. ET
@KMFlower: Israel PM Netanyahu will be leaving for DC a couple of hours after Obama #MEspeech #cnntv

11:04 a.m. ET - @bencnn: There were great expectations in Cairo after Obama's 2009 speech. So much since then has changed expect, perhaps, the cliches. #mespeechm.


Filed under: Middle East • President Obama
soundoff (127 Responses)
  1. omegarising

    @ConservaFASCISTS, Like it or not, God gave them that land and said it would be theirs FOREVER, so you may as well get used to it.

    May 19, 2011 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  2. Andi

    If Israel truly wants Peace, then what the President is suggesting is only fair. After all, it's better than what the original settlers offered the Native Americans here, isn't it? And no one hates Israel except perhaps Glenn Beck.

    May 19, 2011 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  3. jim

    There is a real opportunity in the Middle East for the United States to finally create a policy that is not based on political expediency.....an even handed policy treating and respecting Jews and Arabs as equals. Both sides have committed atrocities against the other, and both need to own responsibility for the chaos that has gone on for so many years.

    May 19, 2011 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  4. Pizzagirl1986

    No one understands – Israel is the only demcratic, clear-thinking entity in the Middle East. That is why support for this country is critical.

    May 19, 2011 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  5. Dominic

    You're the President of the United States Obama, not the Middle East/Northern Africa...do your job here and stop sending our troops and tax money over to these countries. You're bankrupting our country with this nonsense and all of your ridiculous entitlement program funding

    May 19, 2011 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  6. Byron

    Late for his speech? What's the deal?

    May 19, 2011 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  7. hih

    Foreign aid? Really are we borrowing 40% of that
    Bin Laden: move on please
    Peace in the M.E: has abnyone told them that?
    Syria: is that war number three or four are we combining that with one of the others..I need a program.

    May 19, 2011 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  8. Pizzagirl1986

    Do you guys understand...while many Israelis' TRULY want peace, and are open to a Palestinian state...their reasonably justiable fear is that...even if the state is created...at the end of the day, the state of Israel will still not be recognized...and the usual call for the murder of all Jews on the planet will still be a top priority for more conservative Muslims. So for Israel, it's damned if you do, damned if you don't...

    May 19, 2011 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  9. Dorothy Howard

    President Obama, how about Iraq? Why are we pouring billions of dollars in there and writing off their debt? Why can't they revalue their currency and stand on their own and pay us back! The US is broke!! Quit giving our money away!!!

    May 19, 2011 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  10. anonymous

    Israel should receive our support, but they need to start helping themselves, and acting like they want to be part of the solution and not part of the problem. Do they really want peace? Or do they want Israel completely emptied of Arabs, regardless of what it costs?

    May 19, 2011 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  11. Dave

    @Andi: Your comments regarding Israel and Glenn Beck makes no sense. Beck has always shown support of Israel. Is that just a cheap shot? Honestly, if you read between the lines of the President's comments on Israel both as President and as a Senator you can see how he really feels about Israel. The feelings he has toward Israel are not very supportive.

    May 19, 2011 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  12. Robert

    No money to foreign Countries. We need that money right here at home! He just gave billions to Brazil to drill for oil down there vs putting it right here in our own backyard. I am disgusted by his policies --- !!!! Wake up America – these policies are bad for America.

    May 19, 2011 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  13. usa

    we dont have the money! for our own country yet we r going to keep helping everyone else, we have bridges & roads needing repairs, towns becoming ghosttowns due to lack of jobs & forclosure. but u keep handing out freebies mr. president

    May 19, 2011 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  14. Pizzagirl1986

    For the record, not only my grandmother was born in what is now Jerusalem in 1907, but her mother was born there in the late 1880's...so do not say Jews didn't live in Israel before 1948. It is simply not true.

    May 19, 2011 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  15. Drone

    To the geniuses that link Israel to WWII, you need to reread your history books.
    The state of Israel was promised to the Jews in the Balfour Declaration of 1917-18; this was long before Hitler ever came to power, he wasn't on anyones radar at the time. This was ratified in 1922 and became a document of international law. To state it's "not Jewish land" is to deny the combined history of Jews, Christians and Muslims, as all 3 holy books clearly speak of the Jews in Eretz Israel. It also denies the history of the Romans, Assyrians, Greeks, Ottoman, Arab and others, all who clearly indicate a Jewish majority in Israel. Where they all telling the same lie?

    The name Palestine itself was even coined by the Romans! After the Bar Kochba revolt the Roman Emperor Hadrian punished the Jews by attempting to erase the Jewishness of Israel. He destoryed temples and renamed Israel to Palastina, after the Jews ancient enemy, the Phillistines (who were non-Sematic sea-faring people of the Aegean, not related to modern Arabs/Palestinians).

    As for Jews coming from Europe – the Ashkenazis. Many are descendants of those that were forced to leave Israel due to persecution or exile (few of the occupiers of Israel were fond of the Jews through the centuries). Zionism is simply the Jewish Right of Return to lands most never wanted to leave!

    May 19, 2011 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  16. Pizzagirl1986

    Israeli's have to deal with terrorism head on every day since they are sandwiched in between so many hostile entities. Imagine what that is like. While I am a strong advocate for a Palestinian state, I do fear that even that will never be enough for Hamas, Al Quida and the rest...

    May 19, 2011 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  17. Descarado

    Anyone who believes this hilarious liberal tag line, "Arab Spring" is not going to morph into another variety of women-abusing Islamo-fascism is delusional. One can never reconcile Islam with universal suffrage, women's rights and Western democracy. America has nothing in common with these seventh century neanderthals except a weenie President who loves to pay tribute to them.

    May 19, 2011 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  18. Howard

    Obama uses other people's money to buy everything, from votes, to the phony friendship of Islamic countries who hate us.

    We have sent hundreds of Billions of dollars to the middle east, for their over priced oil, which we showed them how to find and drill for. Now, when our country is in terrible debt, and the Obamas are telling us to tighten our belts, Obama wants to send more of our hard earned money to the middle east ???

    Even a brain washed, blindly devoted Obama worshiper, must see the insanity in this ridiculous policy !!!

    SAVE AMERICA ... DUMP OBAMA IN 2012 !!!

    May 19, 2011 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  19. John

    Instead of worry about the Middle East, President Obama should be concentrating on what is happening here in the United States. This might sound cold, but let people in the Middle East take care of themselves and pull out ALL our troops from Iraq and Afghanistan!!!!!!!

    May 19, 2011 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  20. HAD ENOUGH? 9% unemployment, $4-5/gal gas, $1.7 TRILLION deficits, $14 TRILLION debt, Obamacare

    One thing to keep in mind, Arab rulers like King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia are MOST UNHAPPY with U.S. treatment of Mubarak.
    =============================================================================================
    Yes, it is called throwing your allies under the buss at the first sign of trouble. It leads to not having too many allies you can count on. But what does an inexperienced community organizer know of such things?

    May 19, 2011 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  21. GI Joe

    They've loved to fight each other since the beginning of time, and they will cause the end of time. Tell Israel to Go To He!! and cut off their funding.

    We are not the police of the entire world.

    May 19, 2011 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  22. Dale

    The Middle East will never have a spring as long as they keep this caliphate idea going.
    I am an infidel and I am happy to be one.

    May 19, 2011 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  23. HAD ENOUGH? 9% unemployment, $4-5/gal gas, $1.7 TRILLION deficits, $14 TRILLION debt, Obamacare

    When will we start bombing Syria to protect its citizens and try to kill Assad? Isn't that our policy in dealing with these uprisings? It is the Obama "Lead from behind" but "bomb from above" policy.

    May 19, 2011 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  24. ali

    how about get the hell out and don't come back. trying to be on the 'right-side' of the arab spring just shows that we're opportunists who always want to be on the side that wins. we think these people are stupid? they're not like us americans. they have long memories. they wont conveniently forget we liked mubarak, ben ali, and saddam not to mention the autocrats of saudi arabia and bahrain who are still in power and killing civilians as we speak...people won't forget we kept those tyrants fortified in power while the very people we're whispering sweet nothings to right now were suffering in the streets.

    May 19, 2011 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  25. Coco

    It is American which push the change in some sense! Who invented cell phones, twitter and strong social networks? Thank you Steve Jobs.

    May 19, 2011 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6