White house officials have denied reports circulated by the Israeli media that Obama will call on Israel to recognise a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders in his policy speech on recent events in the Arab world this afternoon. White House Press Secretary, Jay Carney, said that while the Middle East peace process will be part of the speech he refused to outline what the President would say. Obama’s speech seeks to recalibrate US policy in the region in the wake of recent mass upheavals. Critics of the President claim he has failed to deliver on promises made in his historic Cairo talk in 2009, where he called Palestinian statelessness “intolerable” and stated his intention to mend the relationship between the West and the Arab World. Many of those critics point to the West’s continued support for dictatorial regimes in the region including Saudi Arabia and Bahrain and Obama’s failure to deliver on the Palestinian-Israeli peace process which has ground to a halt since Israel recommenced settlement activity last September.
The speech is also an effort to pre-empt Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to US Congress on Friday. Netanyahu is in the region for a series of high level meeting and talks in which he will lobby against US recognition of a Palestinian state in the UN in September.
Israels Defence Secretary Ehud Barrack has stated in a piece in the LA Times that Netanyahu must make a dramatic move for peace or risk becoming isolated among the international community. Barrack claimed that a potential peace was closer then when he was PM in 2000 however Israel ran the risk of losing US aid if it did not make more dramatic steps towards peace.
Obama is due to speak at 12:40 EST.