Live blog of Obama’s Middle East address
May 19th, 2011
11:21 AM ET
7 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.

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. Bridget

    I don't understand how he can pledge any money to anybody when our country is so broke! Other countries are just going to have to understand we don't have it to give... we must get America back on track first. Only then will we be in a position to offer help.

    May 19, 2011 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  2. Pizzagirl1986

    Come on, Lex. Really? Israel is not a terrorist country. Are you actually saying that Israel and Hamas are similiar? So, would you rather have Hamas, Fatah or Al Quaida as your friend?? I really doubt your answer is yes.

    May 19, 2011 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  3. zbz

    Why? – American middle class tax payer with no insurance, student loans, no job security (oh wait no job), supporting illegals with medicaid to pop their babies but cannot afford to have me treated, bad education compared to other countries etc etc.

    May 19, 2011 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  4. Amol

    What is the deal withgiving people money, he cant solve their problems by giving them money. We need to expect more cooperation from their side first and then help them help themselves. Money is required, right now in US, our children have bad schooling system, youths are unemployed and old are scared of their social security ! We need money, not arab world ! We have already seen what happened to Pakistan when we were pouring billions on them !

    May 19, 2011 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  5. XWngLady

    Did all of the stupid-crazies escape from their institution this morning? I have never seen a bigger bunch of no-nothing compaliners, completely ignorant of the regional significance of the speech and the President's proposed actions. The speech was a foreign policy speech not a state of the union address. Why are people complaining that the Pres. "should be focusing on the economy"????? HE IS or haven't you been paying attention. That's what his Cabinet and a staff do all day ... The collective IQ of America must have plummeted in the last few years, because since the President was elected, I've never seen so many coo-coos in my life.

    May 19, 2011 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |

    all this money for the MIDDLE east, what abiout the NEAR east – Ohio, Indiana,Pennsylvania???

    May 19, 2011 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  7. i alfaleh

    why is your correspondent in Egypt calling saudi arabia ( 800 pound Gorilla)...that is ashameful name from CNN

    May 19, 2011 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  8. Ronnie

    Egypt makes more than a billion a day in oil sales so why would we forgive them anything?

    May 19, 2011 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  9. Como

    As much as some of you hate it, Israel is the only semblance of a democracy in the middle east. It does not harbor suicide bombers, teach that christians and jews can be murdered on sight, destroy churchs. It fosters an open society and yes it is imperfect in all its fears, iIt still does not blowup arab pizza parlors with suicide bombers. Personally I am sick and tired of the muslim sympathizers giving advice on what the US should do for the "Arab Spring". It reads like a long list of handouts. Enjoy your fun times and silly advice.

    May 19, 2011 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  10. anonymous

    drop israel. they don't want peace. they just want money.

    May 19, 2011 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  11. Rudy NYC

    @Drone wrote:
    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;
    I resemble your comment. The Balfour Declaration was not law. It was simply a letter of recommendation that came about as a result of prior events. In subsequent decades the British government maintained that the Balfour Declaration was not inconsistent with the McMahon pledges, (which refers to the McMahon–Hussein Correspondence of 1915 to 1916) which were series of letters not binding law.

    May 19, 2011 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  12. Ummmm

    Where are we getting the $billion to loan them?

    May 19, 2011 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  13. fluettie

    I know the US wants to help other countries but don't you think you should think about the American citizens that voted you into office. It seems that we (US) give and give plus supporting other countries but when it comes to our own on America soil we take away from our schools, important programs and the elderly. They say Social Security is going broke but yet the payroll deduction rate was reduced in 2011. And now the U.S. is giving $1 billion in debt forgiveness for Egypt and $1 billion in loan guarantees to finance infrastructure. This is really going to help bring down spending right?

    May 19, 2011 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  14. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    A peace process is the Middle East will happen, this is only the beginning of Plan A and those who say we give too much support to Israel, you're wrong. Israel is a democracy and not governed by dictators, the kind of dictatorship that surrounds Israel and the dictatorships the U.S. denounces. Either we stand with Israel or we stand with the countries ruled by dictators. I don't always agree with Israel but I defend their democracy against terroist and dictators.

    May 19, 2011 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  15. Belisa

    We have not been able to fix or improve our current problems... how do we dare to intervene anywhere else? We need to invest our money in house, not abroad. Obama should be concern for the million of US citizens that are losing their houses, jobs and hope. Sorry but, Obama is the worse terrorist attack that the US has had...

    May 19, 2011 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  16. Arizona Gman

    Maybe that 1 billion in forgiveness to go to help the people losing their houses here at home. Instead of just pretending to help them.

    May 19, 2011 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  17. Sadoon

    God gave them the land? WTF is god to give away something he does not even own?

    May 19, 2011 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  18. Snacula

    How about giving me forgiveness of my 29% APR student loan that I've been paying on for the past 12 years, mr. president? Give something to the hard working middle class American for a change. Remember the "change" you promised us? Well, you at least kept that promise to America. I paid $4.15 for a gallon of gas this morning with all of that "change" you gave me. Thanks. I'll tell you what. Why doesn't the government take every single thing from me, instead of the 86% it takes from me now. Please let me give everything to you. Please.

    May 19, 2011 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  19. Anonymous

    I am completely against sending any money overseas, to anyone, for any reason. We are in an economic crisis and need to look after our own people. We've sent billions overseas for years – it's time to stop.

    May 19, 2011 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  20. Jon Wigby

    How can Obama forgive 1 billion dollars of debt at a time when we are under water in debt ourselves?
    This is insane!!!

    May 19, 2011 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  21. New Age Independent

    Obama has truly lost his mind. In these tough economic times where our country is in serious debt, to essentially give 2 BILLION DOLLARS to Egypt is completely irresponsible. It seems like Obama cares more about the middle east than he does our own country. His stance on the 67 borders is sheer lunacy.

    May 19, 2011 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  22. anthony

    Obama is speaking.. here comes the hate no matter what he says.
    He has done a great job so far.
    -Didnt have to stick our noses in it to see the Arab Spring.
    -Only put 24 boots on the ground(and the price of one helicopter+fuel) to take out Osama.
    -Treasure trove of intel from BinLaden compound that will only help future war on terror.
    -No major attacks on US soil to date.
    -Economy on an upswing.

    Seems like the people constantly complaining are the ones offering the least amount of solutions to anything, including their own woes.

    I admit, we should reduce funding to Pakistan AND Israel. I dont have a dog in the middle east race, so I think we should focus that energy and $ domestically.

    Have a nice day.

    May 19, 2011 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  23. unfortunate

    unfortunately, it seems like the things israel (and perhaps gaza) want to stand on aren't solid enough to stand on. highly likely to fail. seems like they are setting their own selves up for more trauma in their future. they aren't where they need to be. unrealistic goals.

    May 19, 2011 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  24. jodee

    I feel broken for Israel right now, but God will always be Israel's friend.

    I love you Israel and all of the Jewish people!

    Not all Americans are against you, I stand with you, God does and all Christians do as well!

    May 19, 2011 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  25. Howard

    Instead of constant grand standing, spending Billions on countries who hate us, and trying to rewrite history ... why doesn't this self absorbed, ego maniac, help the Americans, here at home, who elected him.

    May 19, 2011 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
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