Barack Obama to Israelis: Palestinians deserve statehood
Newscast Media JERUSALEM—In a speech to the Israeli people, President Obama said they are not alone in facing their security concerns, but that peace is the only path to the true security of their country and the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and justice must be recognized.
Speaking March 21 at the Jerusalem International Convention Center, Obama told an audience of primarily young Israelis that their country is “at a crossroads,” and they can permanently secure the dream of Israel’s founders or face a growing challenge to their country’s future.
“Given the demographics west of the Jordan River, the only way for Israel to endure and thrive as a Jewish and democratic state is through the realization of an independent and viable Palestine,” he said.
Israelis have built a prosperous nation and established a thriving democracy “in this small strip of land that has been the center of so much of the world’s history” while also overcoming relentless threats to their security. Their country “is rooted not just in history and tradition, but also in a simple and profound idea: the idea that people deserve to be free in a land of their own,” he said.
But the president urged Israelis to consider the world through the eyes of Palestinians, and said, “Neither occupation nor expulsion is the answer. Just as Israelis built a state in their homeland, Palestinians have a right to be a free people in their own land.”
He said it is clear that negotiations will ultimately lead to two states for two peoples, with Palestinians recognizing that “Israel will be a Jewish state and that Israelis have the right to insist upon their security,” and Israelis recognizing that “continued settlement activity is counterproductive to the cause of peace, and that an independent Palestine must be viable with real borders that have to be drawn.”
Obama also said the days of Israel’s Arab neighbors condemning the Jewish state “to distract their people from a lack of opportunity or government corruption or mismanagement … need to be over,” and called for them to take steps toward normalizing relations with Israel.
The president said Israelis “live in a neighborhood where many of your neighbors have rejected the right of your nation to exist,” and their children “grow up knowing that people they’ve never met may hate them because of who they are.”
For that reason, Israel’s security “cannot be taken for granted.” But Obama said that “so long as there is a United States of America … you are not alone.”
The president asked audience members to think of ways to build trust with their neighbors, and said young Palestinians, Egyptians and others may “seem a world away,” but share the same goals as their counterparts in Israel.
“They want the ability to make their own decisions and to get an education, get a good job, to worship God in their own way, to get married, to raise a family,” he said. Peace begins “not just in the plans of leaders, but in the hearts of people,” and they must push their political leaders to get them to take risks.
“You must create the change that you want to see,” Obama said. “Ordinary people can accomplish extraordinary things.”