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Matthews: Obama's Mideast speech took 'guts'

Let me finish tonight with President Obama's strong statement today for Mideast peace.   

I know the price he will pay for this statement.  He dared to express the support of the United States for self-determination for the Palestinian Arabs.  He called for a boundary of roughly the 1967 borders, with land swaps back and forth. 

Obviously, I believe something more is needed, something just as profound as the borders: a national commitment by the Palestinians to brutally enforce a treaty with Israel.   This is the question right now to Fatah and Hamas both.  Unless you are willing to punish severely those who violate a treaty with Israel, there is no reason in the world that Israel should sign a treaty with you

That, to me, is the heart of the matter.  Are the Palestinians themselves up to making and keeping such a commitment?  Again, if they're not, I wouldn't cut the deal with them - ever. 

Back to President Obama.  I understand why he did it.  There are great forces at work in the Arab and Islamic world today.  Much is in flux.  We don't know which way Egypt will go after Mubarak. We don't know when -- or if -- Khaddafy will fall or Assad in Syria will totter.  We don't know if there is real hope for Iran to moderate.

President Obama, if he is to play a positive role in these changes, needs to be taken in good faith.  He needs to be, not just another American politician playing it safe, but an out-front champion for the rights of people, Arab people in particular, to govern their own affairs. 

I think, often, of the potential of our president to work a real change in that part of the world.   There's a chance, at least, for a positive change, one that offers hope to those hundreds of millions of people.   If there is, it will do much to lessen the pull of the radicals, the al-Qaidas of this world, because if you're a young Arab who can change things for the better in your life without blowing yourself up, that's the way people will go. It is hopelessness that feeds the suicide bomber.  Hope feeds political involvement and, eventually, real self-government.

I understand why some will criticize what he's doing.    To do nothing, to simply go along with the direction the Mideast has been going, would be easier, I believe he is trying his utmost to be a leader.  That takes guts.  It takes vision and, in the end, it takes commitment.  He needs to believe that he holds in his good two hands the will and power to change things. 

We will see after the dust settles "how much" he believes.