President Barack Obama addressed the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday, speaking on the pursuit of peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
Make no mistake; he said yet again that he will oppose a unilateral Palestinian declaration of independence, agreeing with Prime Minister Netanyahu that there is no substitute for direct negotiations. Stressing Israel’s security needs, he told leaders of many Arab states what they may not have wanted to hear. His staunch defense of Israel and his acute awareness of Israel’s security needs clearly placed the United States side by side with Israel in the presence of the international community.
Below are excerpts from Obama’s speech this week:
Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the UN - 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.
America’s commitment to Israel’s security is unshakeable, and our friendship with Israel is deep and enduring. And so we believe that any lasting peace must acknowledge the very real security concerns that Israel faces every single day. 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 eight 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.
These facts cannot be denied. The Jewish people have forged a successful state in their historic homeland. Israel deserves recognition. It deserves normal relations with its neighbors. And 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.
Below are some quotes and statements by officials and organizations praising Obama’s speech. This information can be downloaded as a PDF file here.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu:
“I think that standing your ground, taking this position of principle… I think this is a badge of honor and I want to thank you for wearing that badge of honor.” [New York Daily News, September 22, 2011]
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman:
“I congratulate President Obama, and I am ready to sign on this speech with both hands.” [JTA, September 22, 2011]
American Israel Public Affairs Committee:
“AIPAC appreciates the President’s ‘unshakeable’ commitment to Israel’s security and his clear statements outlining the daily dangers and strategic threats facing Israel. President Obama demonstrated his understanding of Israel’s legitimate requirements when he stated that the Jewish people - in their historic homeland - deserve recognition and normal relations with their neighbors.” [AIPAC, September 21, 2011]
The Washington Institute for Near East Policy’s Robert Satloff:
”...Obama delivered one of the most impassioned statements in support of Israel ever made by an American president in the well of the General Assembly. ...[L]ike an embattled attorney representing an unpopular client before a skeptical jury, Obama’s speech to the assembled leaders from more than 190 countries was essentially a call for people around the world to put themselves in the shoes of Israel and, most notably, the Jewish people….” [WINEP, September 22, 2011]
The Forward editorial, “Politicizing Israel:”
“And now this pandering has taken center stage on the presidential campaign trail, with the appalling and inaccurate statements by the GOP frontrunners, Mitt Romney and Rick Perry. Anyone paying attention to President Obama’s U.N. speech on September 21, in which he defended Israel unequivocally, could dispute Romney’s assertion that the president has thrown Israel ‘under the bus.’” [The Forward, September 22, 2011]
American Jewish Committee Executive Director David A. Harris:
“President Obama’s message was crystal clear that the only path to sustainable peace is direct Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, not what goes on in the corridors of the UN.” [AJC, September 21, 2011]
Conference of Presidents Chairman Richard Stone & Exec. Vice Chairman Malcolm Hoenlein:
“The President correctly and clearly identified Israel’s security needs and challenges. In this context, the President addressed those, including Israel’s neighbors, who seek to deny Israel’s legitimacy…. We specially note this formulation not only because it reaffirmed a historic truth but also because many in the hall he was addressing have sought to deny Israel’s ancient and constant connection to the land and others have refuse to recognize it as the Jewish State.” [Conference of Presidents, September 21, 2011]
Jewish Council for Public Affairs President Rabbi Steve Gutow:
“He (Obama) understands that peace is a cooperative venture. ... The path to peace is paved with compromise and cooperation, not unilateralism.” [Haaretz, September 22, 2011]
Union for Reform Judaism President Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie:
“The Obama administration promised support and delivered it. American diplomats performed impressively and cooperated closely with Jewish leaders. President Obama gave a strong speech to the General Assembly…. Our government earned the gratitude of the Jewish community for a job well done.” [The Jerusalem Post, September 25, 2011]
Orthodox Union President Dr. Simcha Katz and Director of Public Policy Nathan Diament:
“The Orthodox Union commends President Barack Obama for his clear statement of opposition to the Palestinians’ effort to unilaterally seek recognition at the United Nations instead of at the negotiating table with Israel. We also commend President Obama’s strong statements of support for Israel and his Administration’s commitment to Israel’s security.” [Orthodox Union, September 21, 2011]
Agudath Israel Executive Vice President Rabbi David Zwiebel:
“I write to commend you for your clear and wise words to the United Nations General Assembly earlier this week. The stance you took on the Palestinian Authority’s ill-conceived unilateral declaration of statehood was courageous and principled. So too was your pointed description of the daily dangers Israel faces…By reprising both the distant and not-so-distant Jewish past, and referring overtly to the ‘historic homeland’ of the Jewish people, you boldly stated facts that have been crying out for a voice…. your speech at the United Nations further confirmed your deep concern for Israel and her citizens.” [Letter, September 23, 2011]
Click here to sign NJDC’s card thanking the President for his defense of Israel at the UN today.