23 September 2009, by
It was President Barack Obama’s maiden speech, one intended to seek a new era of global cooperation, but it was not without controversy.
Obama shrugged off the go-it-alone brand of diplomacy espoused by former President George W. Bush and called on world nations to join him in solving global crises. But his harsh demands on Israel touched off a furor.
"We continue to emphasize that America does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israel settlements," Obama said.
Jewish leaders moved quickly to condemn the president for again making the issue of the so-called natural growth of existing settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem as the key roadblocks to peace in the troubled region.
"To make absolute statements, particularly when in the past Israel has sort of done everything the Palestinians asked and they still won’t give her peace is to me a counter productive policy," Sen. Charles Schumer said.
It was clearly the president’s intent was to show the world a new America.
"Those who used to chastise America for acting alone in the world cannot now stand by and wait for America to solve the world’s problems alone. Now is the time for all of us to take our share of responsibility," Obama said.
Just Tuesday, Obama orchestrated a symbolic handshake between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, in the hopes of restarting negotiations.
CBS News Foreign Affairs Analyst Pamela Falk said the President’s statement clearly shows his push for peace talks has gained no traction.
"What he got from the Prime Minister of Israel and the President of the Palestinian Authority was not a lot of movement. And so he was clearly frustrated, and what he did as a result in his speech was say, ’Here’s where Israel is wrong, here’s where the Palestinians are wrong,’" Falk said.
"I am not naïve. I know this will be difficult, but all of us, not just the Israelis and the Palestinians, but all of us, must decide whether we are serious about peace or whether we will only lend it lip service," Obama said.
But Israel wasn’t Obama’s only target today.
The President scolded unnamed world leaders for caring more about their own power than their own people, but his speech also contained numerous barbs directed at his predecessor.
"I took office at a time when many around the world had come to view America with skepticism and distrust," he said. "Part of this was due to opposition to specific policies, and a belief that on certain critical issues, America has acted unilaterally, without regard for the interests of others."
The president said those policies of the past are over.
The Israelis and Palestinians announced Wednesday their envoys would meet with U.S. officials, but not with each other, meaning substantive peace negotiations are not yet resuming.
The Palestinians refuse to restart talks until Israel freezes settlement construction, and Israel said those settlements are "bedroom suburbs" of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.