U.S. President Barack Obama addresses the 66th United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York, Sept. 21. Photo by REUTERS/Eric Thayer
Read the full text of President Obama’s speech Wednesday to the U.N. General Assembly.
Here’s what he had to say about Israel and the Palestinians:
“Now I know that particularly this week for many in this hall, one issue stands as a test for these principles – and for American foreign policy: the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians.
One year ago, I stood at this podium and called for an independent Palestine. I believed then – and I believe now – that the Palestinian people deserve a state of their own. But what I also said is that a genuine peace can only be realized between Israelis and the Palestinians themselves. One year later, despite extensive efforts by America and others, the parties have not bridged their differences. Faced with this stalemate, I put forward a new basis for negotiations in May of this year. That basis is clear, its well known to all of us here. Israelis must know that any agreement provides assurances for their security. Palestinians deserve to know the territorial basis of their state.
I know that many are frustrated by the lack of progress. I assure you, so am I. But the question isn’t the goal we seek – the question is how to reach that goal. And I am convinced that there is no short cut to the end of a conflict that has endured for decades. Peace is hard work. Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the UN – if it were that easy, it would have been accomplished by now. Ultimately, it is the Israelis and the Palestinians who must live side by side. Ultimately, it is the Israelis and the Palestinians – not us – who must reach agreement on the issues that divide them: on borders and on security; on refugees and on Jerusalem.
Ultimately, Peace depends upon compromise among peoples who must live together long after our speeches are over, long after our votes have been counted. That is the lesson of Northern Ireland, where ancient antagonists bridged their differences. That is the lesson of Sudan, where a negotiated settlement led to an independent state. And that is the path to a Palestinian state, with negotiations between the parties
We seek a future where Palestinians live in a sovereign state of their own, with no limit to what they can achieve. There is no question that the Palestinians have seen that vision delayed for too long. And it is precisely because we believe so strongly in the aspirations of the Palestinian people that America has invested so much time and effort in the building of a Palestinian state, and the negotiations that can deliver a Palestinian state.
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But understand this is well America’s commitment to Israel’s security is unshakeable, and our friendship with Israel is deep and enduring. S we believe that any lasting peace must acknowledge the very real security concerns that Israel faces every single day. Let’s be honest: Israel is surrounded by neighbors that have waged repeated wars against it. Israel’s citizens have been killed by rockets fired at their houses and suicide bombs on their buses. Israel’s children come of age knowing that throughout the region, other children are taught to hate them. Israel, a small country of less than eight million people, looks out at a world where leaders of much larger nations threaten to wipe it off of the map. The Jewish people carry the burden of centuries of exile, and persecution, and the fresh memory of knowing that six million people were killed simply because of who they are.
Those are facts. They cannot be denied. The Jewish people have forged a successful state in their historic homeland. Israel deserves recognition. It deserves normal relations with its neighbors. And friends of the Palestinians do them no favors by ignoring this truth, just as friends of Israel must recognize the need to pursue a two state solution with a secure Israel next to an independent Palestine.”
He also was as blunt as he’s ever been on Syria: Notably, in calling for sanctions, he did not mention “democratic transition” as a way out for the Assads and their cronies, as he did with Bahrain and Yemen. It’s past that.