While most of America was sleeping this morning, President Obama took the stage at Cairo University to deliver his much-anticipated speech on the Middle East. He called for an alliance and a new beginning between America and the Muslim world, saying "We have a responsibility to join together on behalf of the world we seek." Arguing for mutual tolerance, he said: "I consider it part of my responsibility as president of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear. But that same principle must apply to Muslim perceptions of America. Just as Muslims do not fit a crude stereotype, America is not the crude stereotype of a self-interested empire."
While shying away from details on how to solve many of the problems facing the region, Obama drew firm lines regarding the Israeli-Arab conflict. "Hamas must put an end to violence, recognize past agreements, and recognize Israel's right to exist," he said. "At the same time, Israelis must acknowledge that just as Israel's right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestine. The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements." While he tried to keep expectations low prior to the address, observing to a French reporter that "one speech is not going to solve all the problems in the Middle East," the symbolism of an American president at a podium in the Muslim world was poignant. "Let there be no doubt," he reminded his audience. "Islam is a part of America."