President Obama on Wednesday warned Palestinians that peace cannot be achieved through a declaration of statehood at the United Nations in a speech to the General Assembly.
In stern, sober remarks, Obama again declared that Palestinians should have their own state, but he issued a rebuke to their effort to win statehood through UN recognition.
“I am convinced that there is no short cut to the end of a conflict that has endured for decades,” Obama said. “Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the UN – if it were that easy, it would have been accomplished by now.
Obama restated his belief that Palestinians should have their own state, but only if Israel is recognized and its security is ensured.
“That truth – that each side has legitimate aspirations – is what makes peace so hard,” Obama said. “And the deadlock will only be broken when each side learns to stand in each other’s shoes. That’s what we should be encouraging.”
While the president’s remarks were wide-ranging, moving from the Arab Spring to the global economy, his plea for peace between Israelis and Palestinians were the most anticipated. The U.S. is worried it will have to make a politically uncomfortable veto on Friday if the Palestinians bring their statehood vote to the Security Council.
With analysts questioning how Obama will perform with Jewish voters next year, the president said flatly that “Israel deserves recognition.”
“It deserves normal relations with its neighbors,” Obama said. “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.”
Acknowledging that he is “frustrated by the lack of progress,” Obama sternly reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to Israel is “unshakeable, and our friendship with Israel is deep and enduring.”
“Let’s be honest: Israel is surrounded by neighbors that have waged repeated wars against it,” Obama said. “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,” Obama said. “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 reiterated that commitment minutes later in a bilateral meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In return, Netanyahu praised Obama's efforts to halt the Palestinian efforts at the UN, calling Obama's moves a "badge of honor."