One day after his State of the Union Obama was in Tampa Town Hall to answer questions. Fo those who thought that it would be only about job opportunities and health insurance there was a suprise:
Last night you spoke in your State of the Union address you spoke of America’s support for human rights. Then, why have we not condemned Israel and Egypt’s human rights violations against the occupied Palestinian people? And yet we continue supporting them financially with billions of dollars from our tax dollars?
The question was put to him by Laila Abdelaziz, a student at Tampa University, who worked on his campaign. Obama was clearly not at ease. His answer rambles, but a the same time is quite telling about how he really tninks about the Middle East:
"The Middle East is obviously an issue that has plagued the region for centuries (sic!), and it's an issue that elicits a lot of passions as you have heard. Here's my view. Israel is one of our strongest allies, it has...[applause] let me play this out. It is a vibrant democracy. It shares links with us in all sorts of ways. It...it is critical...for us...and I will never waver from ensuring Israel's security, and helping them secure themselves in what is a really hostile region. So...so...so I make no apologies for that."
"What is also true, is that the plight of the Palestinians is something that we have to pay attention to, because it is not good for our security, and it is not good for Israel's security if you've got millions of individuals who feel hopeless, who don't have an opportunity to get an education, or get a job, or what have you. The grievances on both sides of the issue. What I have said, and what we did from the beginning when I came into office, is to say we are seeking a two state solution."
In his answer he goes out of his way to stress the importance of Israel, this 'vibrant democracy' (o really, is it??) and the need for security, while at the same time saying almost nothing about the rights of the Palestinians. For a more detailed transcript of the meeting, click here.