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

    can we completely re-evaluate our foreign policy?

    May 19, 2011 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  2. johnmenacherjr

    This is totally ridiculous! A bunch of inept people trying to run foriegn policy who know nothing but sitting at a computer. Just becuase you read a fart or whatever these minor emotional outburst are. It does'nt make it true!

    May 19, 2011 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  3. Steve

    Here's an idea...how about forgiving the debt, for one year, to all middle class american taxpayers (earning less than $130K) and giving them an interest free loan for $8K. This is ridiculous...we always seem to forgive our "foreign allies" on debt but never the true people who will end up funding such an idea.

    May 19, 2011 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  4. Howard

    A Japanese View of the Palestinians by Yashiko Sagamori

    If you are so sure that "Palestine, the country, goes back through most of recorded history", I expect you to be able to answer a few basic questions about that country of Palestine:

    When was it founded and by whom?

    What were its borders?

    What was its capital?

    What were its major cities?

    What constituted the basis of its economy?

    What was its form of government?

    Can you name at least one Palestinian leader before Arafat?

    Was Palestine ever recognized by a country whose existence, at that time or now, leaves no room for interpretation?

    What was the language of the country of Palestine?

    What was the prevalent religion of the country of Palestine?

    What was the name of its currency? Choose any date in history and tell what was the approximate exchange rate of the Palestinian monetary unit against the US dollar, German mark, GB pound, Japanese yen, or Chinese yuan on that date.

    And, finally, since there is no such country today, what caused its demise and when did it occur?

    You are lamenting the "low sinking" of a "once proud" nation. Please tell me, when exactly was that "nation" proud and what was it so proud of?

    And here is the least sarcastic question of all: If the people you mistakenly call "Palestinians" are anything but generic Arabs collected from all over or thrown out of the Arab world, if they really have a genuine ethnic identity that gives them right for self-determination, why did they never try to become independent until Arabs suffered their devastating defeat in the Six Day War?

    I hope you avoid the temptation to trace the modern day "Palestinians" to the Biblical Philistines: substituting etymology for history won't work here.

    The truth should be obvious to everyone who wants to know it. Arab countries have never abandoned the dream of destroying Israel they still cherish it today. Having time and again failed to achieve their evil goal with military means, they decided to fight Israel by proxy. For that purpose, they created a terrorist organization, cynically called it "the Palestinian people" and installed it in Gaza, Judea, and Samaria. How else can you explain the refusal by Jordan and Egypt to unconditionally accept back the "West Bank" and Gaza, respectively?

    The fact is, Arabs populating Gaza, Judea, and Samaria have much less claim to nationhood than that Indian tribe that successfully emerged in Connecticut with the purpose of starting a tax-exempt casino: at least that tribe had a constructive goal that motivated them. The so called "Palestinians" have only one motivation: the destruction of Israel, and in my book that is not sufficient to consider them a nation" or anything else except what they really are: a terrorist organization that will one day be dismantled.

    In fact, there is only one way to achieve peace in the Middle East. Arab countries must acknowledge and accept their defeat in their war against Israel and, as the losing side should, pay Israel reparations for the more than 50 years of devastation they have visited on it. The most appropriate form of such reparations would be the removal of their terrorist organization from the land of Israel and accepting Israel's ancient sovereignty over Gaza, Judea, and Samaria.

    That will mark the end of the Palestinian people. What are you saying again was its beginning?

    You are absolutely correct in your understanding of the "Palestinians" murderous motives. I am afraid however that you, along with 99% of the population of this planet have missed the beginning of WWIII (the enemy call it Jihad) quite a few years ago. The siege of the US embassy in Tehran in 1979, an event to which the latest Nobel Peace Prize winner had so miserably failed to respond, can be very well used as the day WWIII stepped out of the pages of the Koran and into the current events.

    I pray the United States and Israel lead the world to victory in this war. Come to think of it, there is no choice, be you a Christian, or even, believe it or not, a Muslim.

    May 19, 2011 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  5. jodee

    Because of Obama and Clinton's stand on the middle east, I am no longer a democrat, I will never vote democrat again.

    May 19, 2011 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  6. nat

    I was saddend that Pres.Obama choose to omit parts of the bill of rights...those rights he spoke of were given by our maker..as stated in the bill of rights..to omit that is an abuse of our bill of rights!!

    May 19, 2011 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  7. Nacho1

    Obama wants to be KING of ALL Arab nations combined into one kingdom so he can rule the Middle East and then the world..............Go....Barack....Go

    May 19, 2011 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  8. usatruth

    Without Middle Eastern turmoil, we have no escape goat for price manipulation by oil companies and wallstreet. Eliminate 25% total of our dependency and replace with electric-solar and the problem is SOLVED. Don't forget Canada (#1 producer for USA) and Mexico (#2 producer of oil to USA) except they don't have turmoil for excuse to jack the Americans around.

    May 19, 2011 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  9. RjGay

    I'm obviously confused. How do you forgive debt and give credit in the same amount when you are yourself trying to borrow from yourself to pay others. Is anyone out there ready to forgive our debt??

    May 19, 2011 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  10. Nacho1

    Moderation by the network be damned.................what the people of this country need is the TRUTH........not moderation!

    May 19, 2011 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  11. Flood Survivor

    What amazes me is that there are so many people in the state of Minnesota became homeless during the September flood of 2010 and yet no government help was given. Yet they are willing to help other nations and financial institutes. That is really hard for me to comprehend to think the government doesn't care about the people in our nation. Take everything inside your home and throw it on the curb to be taken to the junkyard and then you tell me how you would feel about the government not caring enough th help.

    May 19, 2011 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  12. Doctor Strangelove

    The President is on the correct path. GOD's will is for peace. So if you will it, there will be peace. Arabs and Jews need to breed together more. There needs to be a lot more romance between them. GOD's message to them is in Barry White's album titled "Icon Is Love." Now, if you can't get laid playing those tunes, then there is something wrong with you.

    Eventually, they will be a one state solution.

    May 19, 2011 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  13. Rick McDaniel

    Obama has to be delusional to think that Israel would ever go back to 1967 borders. Perhaps he hasn't studied his history well enough, since he is too young to have any first hand knowledge of the 1967 war.

    To even make such a statement, shows a complete lack of understanding of the situation in the Mideast to start with.

    This clearly demonstrates his lack of expertise, in foreign affairs.

    May 19, 2011 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  14. Anonymous

    this article is from the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation – www(dot) hcef(dot)org: Jesus’ words to all Christian Zionists and to us today is still: “It is not for you to know times or seasons…but you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit is come upon you, Acts 2:7-8, we do not see the theology of the Christian Zionists as being in harmony with the scriptures and the teachings of Our Lord Jesus. It has a negative impact on proclaiming the Gospel and could mislead the American Church in its understanding its role in the Middle East.

    May 19, 2011 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  15. isig

    this article is from the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation – www(dot) hcef(dot)org: Jesus’ words to all Christian Zionists and to us today is still: “It is not for you to know times or seasons…but you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit is come upon you, Acts 2:7-8, we do not see the theology of the Christian Zionists as being in harmony with the scriptures and the teachings of Our Lord Jesus. It has a negative impact on proclaiming the Gospel and could mislead the American Church in its understanding its role in the Middle East.

    May 19, 2011 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  16. Dave

    Obama's comments were predictable. Clearly the President has a deep seeded resentment toward Israel. Doesn't he understand that Israel cannot make enough concessions that will make Hamas happy? Israel should not retreat to its 1967 borders.

    May 19, 2011 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  17. isig

    the conflict that has been the epicenter of Middle East hostilities This unending Palestinian tragedy wish is ongoing to this day has been told and meticulously documented by the Israeli historian, Ilan Pappe in his book" The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine" , One World, 2006

    May 19, 2011 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  18. John K.

    Evidently Obama does not think he needs the Jewish vote in 2012.

    May 19, 2011 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  19. New Age Independent

    Rudy NYC

    New Age Independent
    "Arab Spring", what a bunch of garbage.
    -------
    Ahem. You know, ah. Fox News who invented that term.
    -----–
    Rudy, Post your reference. I dont see anything to indicate that Fox was directly involved with "inventing the phrase". Best I can tell it dates back to 2005 and alot of media used it. Or is this just your unfounded biased hatred of a Fox showing?

    May 19, 2011 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  20. HAD ENOUGH? 9% unemployment, $4-5/gal gas, $1.7 TRILLION deficits, $14 TRILLION debt, Obamacare

    Thank you President Obama for working to restore peace. Obama/Biden 2012

    May 19, 2011 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  21. HAD ENOUGH? 9% unemployment, $4-5/gal gas, $1.7 TRILLION deficits, $14 TRILLION debt, Obamacare

    I know I had enough of these high gas prices. That is why I support President Obama's energy policy. Obama/Biden 2012

    May 19, 2011 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  22. fayse

    I think that we should all leave the Foreign policies to those who really have all of the facts and a World view of the problems that face the entire World. It is amazing to read all of the comments posted here by those who have no earthly idea of the things that they have such strong and uneducated opinions about. We cannot be isolationists, the effort to gain peace in the Middle East will benefit us here in the USA.

    May 19, 2011 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  23. obama victim

    this guy get dumber everyday............I can't wait for tomorrow

    May 19, 2011 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  24. Amanda

    For Obama to propose that the Israelis and the Palestinians are to live side by side in perfect harmony, is ludicrous. It will never happen. The Arabs/Palestinians want the land of Israel – all of it, and they would as well drive the Israelis/Jews into he Mediterranean Sea, never to be heard from again. The Land of Israel belongs to the Jews by divine decree and those who oppose them, including Obama, may just find themselves figting against the Almighty Himself.

    May 19, 2011 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  25. shan

    Obama betrayed the only democratic state in the mid east. He's not that bright of a guy, his policy of kissing Arab butt will fail.

    May 19, 2011 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
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