Thursday, September 22, 2011

President Obama: Palestinian Statehood Must Be Achieved Through Talks With Israel

Free Internet Press

U.S. President Barack Obama has infuriated Palestinian leaders with a lengthy defense of the U.S. threat to veto the Palestinian bid for statehood at the United Nations while praising revolutions in other parts of the Arab world.

President Obama told the opening of the U.N. General Assembly in New York that negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, not Security Council resolutions, is the way to ensure a lasting peace. But he was challenged by the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, who said that U.S. leadership on the issue has failed and called for a new initiative involving Europe and Arab states to see the birth of a Palestinian state within a year.

President Obama said he believes "that the Palestinian people deserve a state of their own", and that that vision had been delayed for too long. But he offered no new initiatives and, tellingly, did not repeat earlier calls – for which he has come under fire – for negotiations to be based on the borders at the time of the 1967 war, with agreed land swaps.

The U.S. President, who went from his speech to a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister  Binyamin Netanyahu, was dismissive of the plan put forward by the Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, to ask the security council on Friday to recognize Palestine as a state. The U.S. has said it will veto such a move.

"Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the U.N. – if it were that easy, it would have been accomplished by now. 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," he said as Abbas shook his head.

President Obama spoke about the U.S.'s "unshakeable" commitment to Israel's security, and said that any lasting peace must recognize the Jewish state's "very real security concerns". He spoke at length about Israeli suffering, but to the consternation of the Palestinians made no mention of the difficulties of life under occupation, or the impact of expanding Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The president said: "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 8 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.

"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."

President Obama's failure to offer any new hope of progress toward a Palestinian state stood in sharp contrast to his praise of the quest for freedom in parts of the Arab world and beyond.

"Something is happening in our world. The way things have been is not the way they will be. The humiliating grip of corruption and tyranny is being pried open," he said.

Sarkozy said the "miracle" of the Arab spring is a reminder of the moral and political obligation to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But, without naming the U.S., he said that its oversight of years of failed negotiations means a new approach is required.

Sarkozy said: "We can wait no longer. The method is no longer working? Change the method. Cease believing that a single country or a small group of countries can solve a problem of such complexity."

Sarkozy called for a fresh set of negotiations, with wider involvement of European and Arab nations, based on a timetable that would see the borders of a Palestinian state agreed within six months and a final deal within a year.

"We should not look for the perfect solution. Choose the path of compromise," he said.

Sarkozy also said that the Palestinians were mistaken to seek full recognition as a state by the U.N. Security Council. He warned that if the bid went ahead and it was vetoed by the U.S. violence could be caused. The French president said the Palestinians should instead ask to be admitted as an observer state to the general assembly, a move he said would give them hope.

A senior Palestinian official said privately that Obama's speech was a "disaster", and that the Palestinian leadership has lost confidence in him to be a neutral intermediary. He said that the Palestinians will go ahead with their application to the U.N. Security Council on Friday but expect a vote on the issue to be put on hold. They will then consider whether to ask the general assembly for observer status.

Obama's speech was also greeted with despair in the West Bank.

Mustafa Barghouti, an independent politician and former Palestinian presidential candidate, said he was disappointed.

"It clearly shows the double standards of the US when it comes to the Palestinian issue. Obama spoke about freedom, human rights, justice in South Sudan, Tunisia, Egypt – but not for the Palestinians," he said.

"His version of reality is wrong. He claims that Israel is the victim in this conflict and that's not true. He doesn't see that this is not a struggle between two equal sides, but between an oppressor and the oppressed, and occupier and the occupied."

A Ramallah shop owner, Marwan Jubeh, said: "Israel and the U.S. are one and the same: the U.S. is Israel, and Israel is the U.S. Israel doesn't want to give the Palestinians anything and Obama can't do anything without Israel because Congress is pro-Israel."

In contrast, Netanyahu praised Obama when the two met after the U.S. president's speech. The Israeli prime minister described Obama's pledge to block the Palestinian move at the U.N. Security Council as a "badge of honor".

Netanyahu said he is ready for talks with the Palestinians but he was skeptical about what they could achieve.

"I think the Palestinians want to achieve a state but they're not prepared yet to make peace with Israel," he said.

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  1. If BO had been around in 1776 he would have insisted that King George sign the Declaration of Independence.

  2. I wonder if he still has that 'Property of Raum Emmanuel' tattoo across his butt. Poor fellow. He should have run from his Chicago mob sponsors when he had the chance. He could get sympathy and a champion then. Now, if he obeys nonstop, he personally has a chance but the U.S. is doomed without a military mutiny and subsequent overthrow. There are some generals who have earned life in prison or worse.The U.N. should not be the entity to do the cure. That is the American citizens' job.