According to former Israeli ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren, President Obama's memory isn't too good regarding what he said in one of his early speeches on Middle East policy. Oren was tipped to this inconsistency in a new interview with the president featured in the progressive magazine The Atlantic titled "The Obama Doctrine."
Obama referenced his 2009 Cairo speech -- a speech that clocked in at twice as long as his first inaugural address -- and did nothing short of reversing his entire premise. Here is what Obama thought he said:
My argument was this: Let’s all stop pretending that the cause of the Middle East’s problems is Israel… We want to work to help achieve statehood and dignity for the Palestinians, but I was hoping that my speech could trigger a discussion, could create space for Muslims to address the real problems they are confronting — problems of governance, and the fact that some currents of Islam have not gone through a reformation that would help people adapt their religious doctrines to modernity.
But Oren believes this assessment is "patently unsubstantiated by the text." He adds that the speech "nowhere mentions that the Israeli-Palestinian issue is not the core of the Middle East's other conflicts."
"It actually implied the opposite," Oren said to The Algemeiner. He continued:
The Cairo speech is the foundational document of the Obama administration’s Middle East policy, and it is based on linkage: that everything in the region is linked to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and therefore if you solve it, you will solve the region’s problems.
Oren stated that this Israeli-centric view was "doctrinal" during his time working with the Obama administration from 2009-2013. He once heard former National Security Adviser James Jones say that "if God came down and asked to solve one problem, it would be the Arab-Israeli conflict."
Add to all of this Obama's contentious relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It was made clear in The Atlantic interview that Obama has long blamed Netanyahu for staying politically polarized rather than doing anything meaningful to reach a peaceful two-state agreement. It even mentioned one particular conversation between the two leaders in which Obama felt Netanyahu was being condescending in telling him about the daily dangers of living in Israel. Obama interrupted,
"Bibi, you have to understand something: I’m the African American son of a single mother, and I live here, in this house. I live in the White House. I managed to get elected president of the United States. You think I don’t understand what you’re talking about, but I do.”
Oren was aghast over Obama's contempt:
Really? Netanyahu is one of Obama’s "deepest disappointments" as a Middle East leader? More disappointing than [Syrian President Bassar] Assad? Than [former Iranian president Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad? Than [ISIS chief Abu Bakr] al-Baghdadi?
This left Oren with only one possible conclusion about the president: "[H]is whole vision of and for the Middle East has completely collapsed."