News / Middle East

Obama: Peace with Palestinians Crucial to Israel's Future

President Barack Obama gestures during his speech at the Jerusalem Convention Center, March 21, 2013.
President Barack Obama gestures during his speech at the Jerusalem Convention Center, March 21, 2013.
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— President Barack Obama leaves Israel on Friday, going to Jordan on the next stop of his Mideast trip. Obama told Israelis on Thursday that Palestinians deserve an independent state and Israel's future depends on forging a lasting peace.

Punctuated by frequent applause, and at one point interrupted by a heckler, the speech was aimed at prompting Israel's younger generation to consider their future in an increasingly unstable region.

Obama suggested that future must include risk-taking to achieve lasting peace with an independent and viable Palestinian state living alongside a secure Israel.

"I believe that peace is the only path to true security," he said. "You have the opportunity to be the generation that permanently secures the Zionist dream, or you can face a growing challenge to its future."

Obama said it would be easier for him to offer unconditional support for Israel.  Instead, he offered his advice as a friend deeply concerned about and committed to Israel's future.

He said Israel faces sweeping political changes in the Arab world and changing demographics in the Middle East.

By committing to a lasting peace with Palestinians, Israelis could reverse an "undertow of isolation" and blunt the impact of extremists.

"No single step can change overnight what lies in hearts and minds of millions," Obama said. "No single step is going to erase years of history and propaganda.  But progress with the Palestinians is a powerful way to begin while sidelining extremists who thrive on conflict and thrive on division.  It would make a difference."

Obama added that Israel's security must be central to any settlement and Israel will always have the support of the United States.

"Today I want to tell you, particularly the young people so that there is no mistake here," he said. "So long as there is a United States of America - atem lo levad - you are not alone."

Related report by Jeff Custer:

Obama Calls for Talks on Core Israeli-Palestinian Issuesi
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March 21, 2013
On the second day of his visit to the Middle East, U.S. President Barack Obama visited Ramallah in the West Bank for talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and tours of the area. Obama took the opportunity to call on Israelis and Palestinians to begin peace talks on core issues of their conflict. Jeff Custer reports.

Earlier in the occupied West Bank,  Obama met with President Mahmoud Abbas.  He urged Palestinians and Israelis not to remain frozen by "old positions" blocking direct negotiations.

U.S. President Barack Obama participates in a joint news conference with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the Muqata Presidential Compound in Ramallah, March 21, 2013.U.S. President Barack Obama participates in a joint news conference with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the Muqata Presidential Compound in Ramallah, March 21, 2013.
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U.S. President Barack Obama participates in a joint news conference with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the Muqata Presidential Compound in Ramallah, March 21, 2013.
U.S. President Barack Obama participates in a joint news conference with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the Muqata Presidential Compound in Ramallah, March 21, 2013.
President Abbas called Israeli settlement policy the major hurdle to a two-state solution.

"It is the duty of the Israeli government to at least halt the activity, so that we can speak of issues, and when we define our borders and their borders together, each side will know its territory in which it can do whatever it pleases," said Abbas.

On Friday,  Obama visits the Yad Vashem memorial to Holocaust victims and lays wreaths at the graves of Israeli leaders.  He also returns to the West Bank to visit the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

He then leaves for Jordan and talks with King Abdullah about Mideast peace efforts, Syria, and political and economic reform.

  • U.S. President Barack Obama walks with Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh, right, upon his arrival at Queen Alia International Airport in Amman, Jordan, March 22, 2013.
  • Obama tours the Hall of Names during his visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem, March 22, 2013. With him are Rabbi Israel Meir Lau, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Chairman of the Yad Vashem Directorate Avner Shalev and Israeli President Shimon Peres.
  • President Obama with Rabbi Israel Meir Lau, left, after visiting the Hall of Remembrance at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem, Israel, March 22, 2013.
  • Obama shares a laugh with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, during an official state dinner hosted by Israel's President Shimon Peres (not pictured) in Jerusalem, March 21, 2013.
  • Members of the audience listen as President Obama delivers a speech on Mideast policy at the Jerusalem Convention Center, March 21, 2013.
  • Obama interacts with children as he tours the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, March 22, 2013.
  • Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas walks with  Obama at the Muqata Presidential Compound in the West Bank town of Ramallah, March 21, 2013.
  • President Obama lays a wreath at the grave of former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin at Mt Herzl in Jerusalem March 22, 2013.
  • Rows of police officers on standby during Obama's visit in the West Bank city of Ramallah, March 21, 2013.
  • President Obama shakes hands with Israeli children as he is welcomed in Jerusalem, March 20, 2013.
  • U.S. President Obama, Israeli President Shimon Peres and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speak with greeters at Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, March 20, 2013.
  • Israeli soldiers walk towards their positions as they prepare for an official ceremony to welcome President Obama at Ben Gurion International Airport, near Tel Aviv, Israel, March 20, 2013.
  • Posters calling for Obama to free Jonathan Pollard from a U.S. prison on display in Jerusalem, March 20, 2013.

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