Note: This article is from the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph.

(by Toby Harnden, WASHINGTON, D.C. – President Barack Obama has vowed to seize “a historic opportunity” in the Middle East, pledging U.S. support for human rights in the Middle East and serving notice on leaders who have “turned to repression to remain in power.”

The wide-ranging speech from the State Department in Washington…was billed by the White House as the most important one by Mr. Obama since his address to the Muslim world in Cairo two years ago.

He sought for the first time to align the United States with the “Arab Spring” of uprisings across the Middle East that the White House has been reluctant to embrace fully, proclaiming that America has “a stake not just in the stability of nations, but in the self determination of individuals” in the region.

Mr. Obama compared the upheaval in the Middle East and Africa to the American Revolution and the Civil Rights movement, stating that the U.S. was “founded on the belief that people should govern themselves.”

“Sometimes, in the course of history, the actions of ordinary citizens spark movements for change because they speak to a longing for freedom that has built up for years. In America, think of the defiance of those patriots in Boston who refused to pay taxes to a King, or the dignity of Rosa Parks as she sat courageously in her seat.”

Mr. Obama was more explicit about the parameters of an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal than ever before. He told Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli premier, that Israel had to accept the Palestinian demand for it to accept the 1967 borders, insisting that a Jewish state “cannot be fulfilled with” [what he says is] “permanent occupation” of Palestinian lands.
[NOTE: The liberal view is that Israel is occupying Palestinian lands (East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza Strip). The conservative view is that Israel conquered those areas in the 1967 Six Days War.]

“Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognised borders are established for both states,” he said. “The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their potential, in a sovereign and contiguous state.”

The embrace of a key Palestinian demand is likely to anger Mr Netanyahu on the eve of his visit to the White House on Friday. …..

Following the speech, Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, called a meeting of senior officials to discuss the implications.

The speech began 25 minutes after it was scheduled to start. The delay was said to be due to a debate over what to include, particularly whether a reference to the 1967 borders should be made.

Hailing the “young vendor named Mohamed Bouazizi” from Tunisia who ” was devastated when a police officer confiscated his cart” and then set himself alight, Mr. Obama stated that “it will be the policy of the United States to promote reform across the region, and to support transitions to democracy.”

He said: “We support a set of universal rights. Those rights include free speech, the freedom of peaceful assembly; freedom of religion, equality for men and women under the rule of law and the right to choose your own leaders – whether you live in Baghdad or Damascus, Sanaa or Tehran.”

Mr. Obama also announced that he was [forgiving] Egypt of up to $1 billion in debt while also guaranteeing [to give Egypt $1 billion] “to finance infrastructure and job creation”.

At the same time there were tough words for the region’s dictators. He told Syria’s President Bashir Assad that his people had “shown their courage in demanding a transition to democracy” and he was now faced with “a choice – he can lead that transition, or get out of the way.”

But the only penalty he outlined for failing to “stop shooting demonstrators” beyond the sanctions announced on Wednesday was that Assad’s “regime will continue to be challenged from within and isolated abroad.”

There were stern words for traditional US allies in the Middle East, Bahrain and Yemen. “If America is to be credible, we must acknowledge that at times our friends in the region have not all reacted to the demands for change that are consistent with the principles that I have outlined today.

“That is true in Yemen, where President Saleh needs to follow through on his commitment to transfer power. And that is true, today, in Bahrain.”

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1. How did the White House promote President Obama’s Thursday speech from the State Department?

2. a) What has President Obama called on Israel to do to establish a peace deal with the Palestinians?
b) What concessions has President Obama called on the Palestinians to make to establish peace with Israel?

3. Read the “Background” below the questions. How did President Obama’s demand of Israel change U.S. policy on this issue?

4. Addressing the uprisings against autocratic rulers in the Middle East, what rights did President Obama say he supports for all people?

5. What economic aid did President Obama promise to Egypt in his speech?

6. Ask a parent with which aspects of President Obama’s speech he/she agrees and which aspects he/she disagrees, and to explain his/her answer.


  • President Barack Obama is endorsing the Palestinians’ demand for their future state to be based on the borders that existed before the 1967 Middle East war, in a move that will likely [anger] Israel.
  • In a speech outlining U.S. policy in the Middle East and North Africa, Obama on Thursday sided with the Palestinians’ opening position a day ahead of a visit to Washington by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
  • Netanyahu is [strongly] opposed to referring to the 1967 borders.
  • Until Thursday, the U.S. position had been that the Palestinian goal of a state based on the 1967 borders, with agreed land swaps, should be reconciled with Israel’s desire for a secure Jewish state through negotiations. (from

THE SIX-DAY WAR:  Causes and Consequences (from

  • What was the Six-Day War? Who were the combatants and why did they fight? How did the war affect the region and how did the world react?
  • Using research and analysis gathered from respected experts in Middle East history, politics and other related fields, this Web site answers those questions; because to understand the literal and metaphorical map of the modern Middle East – the geographic positions held by the region’s armies and the negotiating positions held by its leaders – one must first understand the Six-Day War, and more importantly, its causes and consequences.
  • This is true not because the current strife began on June 5, 1967 with the outbreak of war – it did not – but rather for the opposite reason: Many of the attitudes and forces that led to the Six-Day War were the same as those that had fueled conflict in the region since even before Israel’s independence in 1948, and are the same as those that still stoke tensions there today.
  • That both the Six-Day War and the current conflict stem from the same root issues is evinced by two similar statements uttered almost 40 years apart: In 1967, an Arab participant in the war that had just ended described the fighting as “not a new war but part of the old war” from 1948 – the war against Israel’s founding (Associated Press, Lighting Out of Israel, 156). Israeli leaders and pundits would later use a nearly identical description – “a continuation of the (1948) War of Independence” – to characterize the Palestinian violence and Israeli response that began in 2000, the so-called second intifada.
  • The major factor instigating conflict between Israel and its neighbors – whether in 1967, 2000 or any other time – has been the the Arab leadership’s rejection of the legitimate right of Jews to reconstitute their national home in the Middle East, and Israel’s attempt to cope with the security challenges caused by this rejectionism.
  • As far back as 1929, when Arab rioters attacked Jewish communities in Palestine and massacred their inhabitants, the civil and human rights of Jews had been under violent attack. In 1948 it became an existential issue, with six Arab armies attacking the newly independent Israel in an attempt to wipe the state off the map.
  • Again in 1967, in the run up to the Six-Day War, Israel’s existence seemed to hang in the balance. As the armies of Egypt, Syria and Jordan openly prepared for battle against Israel, and Arab leaders and the Arab “street” called for its destruction, Israel faced frightful choices. “We had already started thinking in terms of annihilation, both national and personal,” explained Lt. Yossi Peled, a Holocaust survivor who was at the time a lieutenant in the Israel army. Israel’s Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, realizing the immense military challenge that would be caused by an Arab attack, told his cabinet: “God help us through if they hit us first.” Chief of Staff Yitzkhak Rabin had a nervous breakdown, which for a short time kept him from his duties.
  • Israel’s hospitals prepared for mass casualties, not only from the advanced conventional weapons supplied by the Soviets to Egypt and Syria and by the West to Jordan, but also from chemical weapons, which Egypt was known to have used during its war in Yemen.
  • The tensions continued to mount while Israel’s Prime Minister Levy Eshkol insisted, even as more and more Arab troops massed on the borders, that diplomatic attempts to resolve the crisis be exhausted before Israel would consider military action.
  • This was the nature of the Arab-Israeli conflict before the Six-Day War, or in other words, before Israel ever occupied the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
  • Often, in current discussions about the Middle East, Israel’s occupation is mischaracterized as the primary, if not the sole, cause of the conflict rather than an effect of it. Many journalists, unfamiliar with the relevant facts and context, and mistakenly believing that the starting point of Mideast tensions is the “occupation,” may present flawed accounts that suggest the resolution of the tension can be achieved more or less simply by ending Israel’s presence in the territories. This ahistorical description is found all too often in the U.S. media, but even more pervasively in the European setting.
  • It is our hope that this Web site will help correct such misperceptions while shedding light on this important event in Middle East history.

Read more about the Arab-Israeli War (the Six Day War) of 1967 in which Israel conquered the disputed land (East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza) at


Watch and read President Obama’s speech at

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