President Obama gave a long-awaited speech on the Middle East on Thursday, May 19, that brought immedate criticism from pro-Israeli groups and GOP presidential hopefuls.  Nothing he said was really new except perhaps that Palestine should have an international border with Jordan, which is in conflict with Israel’s plan to have a militarized buffer zone between Jordan and Israel.  The rest of the speech was, by some standards, very pro-Israeli, emphasizing our shared values and long-term commitment to Israel and its security.  Prime Minister Netanyahu, however, responded with a number of things he wanted to push President Obama on, calling the 1967 borders “indefensible.” 

The Rev. Mark Hanson, presiding bishop of the ELCA, in a statement responding to the president’s speech, said it resonated with ELCA statements and values.  In the statement, Bishop Hanson also advocated for a shared Jerusalem as the capital of both states with equal access to all Christians, Muslims and Jews, and affirmed: “the right to self-determination so that the God-given dignity of all people is respected and recognized. This principle, though, must be fully realized everywhere, without exception, so that peace, justice and development will be possible.”

According to an ELCA press release, “In addition to his statement, Hanson was among 29 Christian, Muslim and Jewish leaders who sent a letter to Obama today offering support for ‘strong, sustained U.S. leadership, in coordination with the Quartet, to press for agreement on a two-state peace agreement before it is too late.’ The religious leaders urged Obama to visit Jerusalem and the region soon to meet with Israeli and Palestinian leaders to restart negotiations. 

Here are two of the many analysis articles, add your favorite in the comments.

What’s really behind harsh GOP responses to Obama’s Middle East speech?
The Christian Science Monitor  
Obama Gets Real on Israel – Daniel Levy, The American Prospect