Writing in The New Republic, Shmuel Rosner says Obama was "speaking the rhetoric of Reagan, while intending to execute the policy of George H.W. Bush" and says that the speech begs two questions:
One is quite obvious: Will the Arab and Muslim world believe Obama? Most Americans, according to a Gallup poll published yesterday, remain skeptical. But it will be the Arab response that will determine the answer to this first question.
The second question, though, is no less important, and it is a question to which an answer will emerge only with time, and action: Does Obama know not just how to say the right words, but also how to achieve all, or even a handful of, the goals he has so beautifully and expressively laid out today?
Rosner also has some observations about the Iran and Israeli-Palestinian portions of the speech:
In fact, the only aggressive message conveyed in the part dedicated to Iran actually seemed aimed at Israel: "No single nation should pick and choose which nations hold nuclear weapons. That is why I strongly reaffirmed America’s commitment to seek a world in which no nations hold nuclear weapons." This might mean future American pressure on Israel to disarm, as part of the deal the Obama team will be seeking with Tehran later this month.
Israel was anxiously waiting the speech, following two weeks of contentious public statements related to settlement building. On this topic, Obama hasn’t added more fuel to the fire. But it was interesting to note how the Arab crowd cheered enthusiastically when he called for settlement freeze and the easing of restrictions on Palestinians, and sat silently, solemnly when he said that denying the holocaust was "baseless, ignorant, and hateful".
The president also said that the United States "cannot impose peace." That is one humble statement from a president who seemed to imply in recent weeks that this is exactly what the United States will be trying to do. Yesterday, summing up his visit to Washington, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak boldly criticized recent demands by the Obama team: "You have to be attached to facts of life," he said. "You can not expect the unreasonable to happen."