WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama's speech to Muslims also had a huge and attentive Jewish audience, attuned to any suggestion that he might soften U.S. support for Israel or make nice with Iran at the expense of the Jewish state.
Obama scored points with Muslims for opening a public dispute with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over Jewish settlements on land Palestinians want for an independent state.
Still, Obama gave no ground, declaring U.S. bonds with Israel "unbreakable."
An Israeli government statement issued after Obama spoke ignored his calls for a settlement freeze and the creation of an independent Palestinian state — demands that the hawkish Netanyahu continues to reject.
"We share President Obama's hope that the American effort heralds the beginning of a new era that will bring about an end to the conflict," the statement said, noting that Israel's security must be guaranteed.
"All in all, it's not bad. I don't think there's anything we disagree with here," said Danny Seaman, the director of Israel's Government Press Office.
"The state of Israel isn't against reconciliation," he added, but he warned against any moves that could "be used by the extremists to endanger Israel and endanger the peace process."
Michael Ben-Ari, an Israeli lawmaker from a far-right ultranationalist party, had harsh criticism for Obama. "His hatred for the people of Israel led him to deliver a most dangerous speech that exposed his pro-Islamic trends, designed to undermine the vision of the people of Israel returning to their homeland."
Aliza Herbst, a 56-year-old resident of the West Bank settlement of Ofra, calmly watched Obama's speech on television. "You can have your speechwriters find every good thing a Muslim has ever done. But more modern history is that the Muslim world is at war with the Western world," she said.