News / Middle East

    Obama: 'No Shortcut' to Israel-Palestinian Peace

    President Barack Obama addresses the 66th session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters, September 21, 2011.
    President Barack Obama addresses the 66th session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters, September 21, 2011.

    President Barack Obama has addressed the 66th United Nations General Assembly about what he calls a time of transformation, especially in the Middle East and Africa.

    In his roughly 35-minute address, the president went down a list of events in which he said nations "stepped forward" to maintain international peace and security, and "more individuals claimed their universal right to live in freedom and dignity."

    Beginning in Africa, he noted that South Sudan obtained its independence and the people of Ivory Coast had weathered its political upheaval and is now governed by the man elected to lead them.

    Obama turned to the so-called Arab Spring ,beginning with Tunisia, where he said people "chose the dignity of peaceful protest over the rule of an iron fist." He then spoke about Egypt.

    Palestinian Statehood Bid Breakdown

      The Process

    • Palestinians say they are seeking U.N. recognition after years of negotiations with Israel failed to deliver an independent state.
    • It is not clear if Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will seek U.N. Security Council approval of U.N. member status for an independent Palestine, or instead seek "non-member status" within the world body.
    • The mechanism for recognizing statehood at the United Nations is specific.
    • First, a resolution declaring a State of Palestine as a full U.N. member is introduced. Then the resolution is sent to the Security Council, which studies it and takes a vote on sending the measure to the full General Assembly. It takes two thirds of the U.N.'s membership to approve voting-state status.
    • Achieving non-member status requires only a simple majority vote in the 193-member General Assembly. Palestinians currently hold observer status at the world body.
    • Non-voting U.N. membership would provide Palestinians with a status upgrade that would allow them to petition U.N. committees and entities such as the International Court of Justice.

      Why the Palestinian bid?

    • President Abbas backed out of U.S.-led peace talks last year in protest against Israel's decision to end a freeze in settlement building on land the Palestinians want for a future state. Palestinians say because the peace process has failed, they will unilaterally seek to establish a state. Abbas said the Palestinians are the only people in the world who remain under occupation.

      Why the Israelis oppose the move?

    • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the Palestinians' plan to seek statehood recognition at the United Nations is "futile," and that only direct negotiations can lead to a peace agreement.
    • Netanyahu has accused the Palestinians of "consistently evading" negotiations. He called on the Palestinian Authority "to abandon unilateral steps" and said it would then "find Israel to be a genuine partner" for peace.
    • Israel leaders say that by bypassing talks and going to the U.N., the Palestinians are violating previous agreements, and that could result in Israeli sanctions.

      Why the U.S. promises to veto?

    • The Obama administration opposes the Palestinian move and says it will not help to bring Palestinians and Israelis back to the negotiating table. President Obama has called the proposal a "distraction" to attaining Mideast peace that he says can only be addressed through negotiations.
    • The U.S., one of five veto-wielding members of the U.N. Security Council, says it will veto a Palestinian membership bid in the Council if it comes to a vote.

    "Egyptians from all walks of life - men and women; young and old; Muslim and Christian - demanded their universal rights," said Obama.  "We saw in those protesters the moral force of non-violence that has lit the world from Delhi to Warsaw; from Selma to South Africa - and we knew that change had come to Egypt and to the Arab World."

    Obama said 42 years of tyranny in Libya ended in six months, with the help of NATO and Arab League states joining an international coalition. He called Libya an example of "nations standing together for the sake of peace and security and individuals claiming their rights."

    The president also mentioned Bahrain and Yemen. He said the United States will continue to support universal freedoms, and said each nation must "chart its own course" to fulfill the aspirations of its people.


    Speaking of a "new direction" for the United States, Obama noted the drawdown of U.S. forces from Iraq and Afghanistan. He said the U.S. is poised to end wars it was drawn into by Osama bin-Laden and has emerged stronger.

    "Ten years ago, there was an open wound of twisted steel, a broken heart in the center of this city," Obama noted.  "Today, as a new tower is rising at Ground Zero, symbolizing New York’s renewal, even as al-Qaida is under more pressure than ever before, its leadership has been degraded. And Osama bin Laden, a man who murdered thousands of people from dozens of countries, will never endanger the peace of the world again."

    Obama renewed his call for Palestinians to return to direct negotiations with Israel, rather than pursue a statehood bid at the United Nations, either in the Security Council or General Assembly.

    Acknowledging his personal frustration after a year of extensive diplomatic efforts, he said there is no shortcut to peace.

    US President Obama's remarks on Israel-Palestinians:

    "Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the United Nations. If it were that easy, it would have been accomplished by now," added Obama.

    Obama said Iran's government continues to refuse to recognize the rights of its own people, and has not demonstrated to the world that its nuclear program is peaceful.

    Image taken from amateur video purports to show armored vehicles and troops taking up positions in Latakia on August 15, 2011. (The content and location of this image cannot be independently verified.)
    Image taken from amateur video purports to show armored vehicles and troops taking up positions in Latakia on August 15, 2011. (The content and location of this image cannot be independently verified.)

    On Syria, he said the time has come for U.N. Security Council action to sanction the Assad government and "speak with one voice" about the torture, detention and murder of people there.

    "The Syrian people have shown dignity and courage in their pursuit of justice - protesting peacefully, standing silently in the streets, dying for the same values that this institution is supposed to stand for," Obama said.  "The question for us is clear: Will we stand with the Syrian people, or with their oppressors?"

    Obama said North Korea has yet to take concrete steps to abandon its weapons, adding that it and Iran must face greater pressure and isolation if they continue down a path outside of international law.

    The president said the global financial crisis showed how interconnected nations have become and that they will "rise or fall together." The United States, he said, stands with European nations dealing with their fiscal challenges, and will work with emerging economies to promote growth.

    Related report by Kent Klein:

    You May Like

    Russian-Backed Offensive in Syria Pushes War to Tipping Point

    As threat to Aleppo and rebel forces grows, US plan to negotiate becomes less and less appealing for Syrian government, says one military analyst

    IS Runs Timber Smuggling Business in Afghanistan, Officials Say

    Government turning blind eye to smuggling, according to tribal leaders; Afghanistan's forest cover dropped by 50 percent in three decades, experts say

    Video White House Seeks $1.8 Billion to Combat Zika

    Obama administration says funding would 'support essential strategies to combat the virus' such as rapidly expanding mosquito control programs, accelerating vaccine research

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenyai
    X
    February 08, 2016 4:30 PM
    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video Sanders, Clinton Battle for Young Democratic Vote

    Despite a narrow loss to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in last week's Iowa Democratic caucuses, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders secured more than 80 percent of the vote among those between the ages of 18 and 29. VOA correspondent Aru Pande talks to Democrats in New Hampshire about who they are leaning towards and why in this week's primary.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.