My reaction: meh. Parole parole. Lots of rhetoric, precious little substance. Good political theater, with the Israelis pretending to be righteously indignant even though the speech didn't actually change anything with regards to them.
The 1967 borders have been official American policy since 1967. Sometimes the Prez brings them up, sometimes not, depending on which way the wind blows. It was news back when George W. Bush appeared to backtrack from them in a letter to Ariel Sharon, but even that didn't become the official American line; Obama's speech is only significant to the extent that it goes back to the rhetoric before that bit of correspondence.
Both Obama and especially Netanyahu are way behind the curve. The initiative is now with the Arabs.
The Fatah-Hamas accord is big news. It should be welcomed by anyone who cares about peace in the Middle East -- it puts a pretty significant price tag on any stupid shit Hamas might want to pull, which can only be good. Hamas isn't going to disappear, which means that the best possible outcome is that it drops violent resistance. It has now done so, however provisionally and tactically.
Similarly, the Palestinian initiative to go for recognition of independence in the UN is big news. It would change the discourse in the region. I doubt Netanyahu is ready to take the kind of steps needed to put that on hold. It'll be interesting to see how that plays out. If the result is an independent Palestine with the 1967 armistice lines as its official borders, things will be rather different. Shit will get real, in one way. It might even make the two-state solution workable again. Might. I still think there are too many "facts on the ground" for that to work, which means that a binational state is the likeliest outcome, however long it'll take to get there.
A few different takes on the speech from some people whose opinion I respect.
- Obama just lost the Palestinians, by Larry Derfner
- Obama and the Dilemmas of US Middle East Policy, by Juan Cole -- clearly the most cheerful of the bunch
- President Obama delivers his AIPAC speech early, by Jeremiah Haber
- Obama's Middle East Speech -- He Just Didn't Get It, by Richard Silverstein
Errata: fixed Richard Silverstein's first name. Thanks, David.