United Nations, Sept 21 – U.S. President Barack Obama said Wednesday speeches and resolutions at the United Nations would not bring peace between Israelis and Palestinians: only they themselves could ultimately bridge their differences.
In a speech to the United Nations General Assembly, Obama did not refer directly to a Palestinian unilateral drive to win recognition as a state from the world body, which the United States opposes.
Instead, he focused on the need for the parties to negotiate and for Arabs to stop teaching their children to hate Israelis. Expressing an unbreakable commitment to Israeli security, Obama declared that any lasting peace must acknowledge the threats Israelis faced every day of their lives.
“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, persecution, and the fresh memory of knowing that six million people were killed simply because of who they were.”
Obama said Israel’s Arab neighbors should recognize the Jewish state.
“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,” he said.
“I am convinced that there is no short cut to the end of a conflict that has endured for decades. Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the UN – if it were that easy, it would have been accomplished by now,” Obama said.
“Ultimately, it is Israelis and Palestinians who must live side by side. Ultimately, it is Israelis and Palestinians – not us – who must reach agreement on the issues that divide them: on borders and security; on refugees and Jerusalem.”
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who will address the forum on Friday, has said he would submit a formal bid for full U.N. membership. But the Palestinians currently do not have the nine votes necessary to present a resolution to the Security Council.
At the same time, Obama again made the case for a Palestinian state, created through negotiations – a goal the current Israeli government endorses.
“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 achieve one,” Obama said.
Obama met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shortly after delivering his speech. The Israeli leader thanked the President for his words.
“The Palestinians deserve a state, but it’s a state that has to make that peace with Israel,” Netanyahu said. “And therefore, that attempt to shortcut this process, of not negotiating peace; that attempt to get state membership in the United Nations will not succeed.”
Netanyahu added: “I think the Palestinians want to achieve a state with the international community but they’re not prepared yet to give peace to Israel in return. My hope is that there will be other leaders in the world, other responsible leaders, who will heed your call, Mr. President and oppose this effort to shortcut peace negotiations, in fact to avoid them.”