THE UNITED NATIONS -- With Palestinian leaders pushing statehood through recognition by the United Nations, President Obama today stated that lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians could come only through compromise and negotiation.
“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,” he said in his address today before the U.N. General Assembly.
What the president didn't mention in his remarks: vetoing what is expected to be Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ call for the U.N. Security Council to acknowledge Palestine’s statehood.
In his speech, Obama reaffirmed the United States friendship with Israel and acknowledged that nation's precarious location. “Let’s be honest: Israel is surrounded by neighbors that have waged repeated wars against it." And he called for a sovereign state for Palestine while explaining that both sides have “legitimate aspirations.”
“That is the truth. Each side has legitimate aspirations, and that’s part of what makes peace so hard. And the deadlock will only be broken when each side learns to stand in each others' shoes,” he said.
Obama's focus on Israel and Palestine came after he extolled the transformations that have gone on in Northern Africa and the Middle East with the help of the United Nations, especially the move towards democracy in Libya.
“When they [the Libyan people] were threatened by the kind of mass atrocity that often went unchallenged in the last century, the United Nations lived up to its charter. The Security Council authorized all necessary measures to prevent a massacre. The Arab League called for this effort, and Arab nations joined a NATO-led coalition that halted Khaddafy’s forces in their tracks.”
He hailed this as the way “the international community is supposed to work. Nations standing together for the sake of peace and security; individuals claiming their rights.”
Obama had harsh words for Syria, saying the U.N. Security council should sanction the country and admonished the governments of Iran and Yemen. And he said the U.S. will “continue to support those nations that transition to greater democracy," and that it will "always stand up for the universal rights that were embraced by this Assembly.”
After his speech, Obama met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and is expected to meet with Palestinian President Abbas early this evening.