The PJ Tatler

Questions after Obama's MidEast speech

1. Will Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu proceed with his planned visit to the US? He is set to address Congress on May 24. In today’s speech, President Obama took the Palestinian side in the decades-long negotiations between the Israelis and the PA. PM Netanyahu was reportedly briefed last week that this statement was coming, giving him time to plan a response. What will that response be?

2. Is Obama’s statement behind George Mitchell’s recent resignation? Mitchell was, until last week, the president’s Middle East envoy but he resigned abruptly. And his resignation came at around the same time the Israelis were said to have learned of the president’s 1967 statement.

3. What happens next in Libya? The president reiterated his support for the NATO mission there, but the 60-day War Powers Act deadline looms Friday. What’s the plan?

4. What does the “full support of the United States” mean in the context of the Middle East’s turmoil. Today, the president said the following:

So in the months ahead, America must use all our influence to encourage reform in the region. Even as we acknowledge that each country is different, we will need to speak honestly about the principles that we believe in, with friend and foe alike. Our message is simple: if you take the risks that reform entails, you will have the full support of the United States. We must also build on our efforts to broaden our engagement beyond elites, so that we reach the people who will shape the future – particularly young people.

In Egypt, it meant calling for Mubarak to leave. In Libya, it has meant armed intervention. In Syria, it has meant practically nothing. This administration has even characterized Assad as a “reformer.” So along with “full support of the United States,” who and what does this administration see as “reform.”

5. How much will this speech cost the United States? The call for Israel to retreat to its pre-1967 borders may cost us our strongest ally in the region. Singling out Bahrain may cost us an ally there. The various initiatives and investments outlined will undoubtedly be backed up by US taxpayer funds. What is the total cost of this speech?