President Obama pledged his administration’s commitment to seeking peace in the Middle East during his address to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday, declaring that Palestinians “have a right to live in dignity in their own state.”
“Friends of Israel, including the U.S., must say clearly that its future depends on the creation of a Palestinian state,” Obama told world leaders gathered for their annual meeting at U.N. headquarters in New York.
A breakthrough in the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, which resumed this summer, would have a profound and positive influence on the entire Middle East region, Obama asserted.
But he warned that progress in the long, fruitless peace talks was being undermined by Israel’s continued occupation of the West Bank.
“I have made clear that the United States will never compromise our commitment to Israel’s security, nor our support for its existence as a Jewish state,” Obama stated. But he pointed to “a growing recognition within Israel that the occupation of the West Bank is tearing at the democratic fabric of the Jewish state.”
Likewise, Obama said, “the United States remains committed to the belief that the Palestinian people have a right to live with security and dignity in their own sovereign state.” But the Palestinians are “cynical that real progress will ever be made and frustrated by their families enduring the daily indignity of occupation.”
Obama praised Israeli and Palestinian leaders for taking “significant political risks” in agreeing to resume negotiations that were stalled for years by Palestinian objections to Israeli settlement-building and Israelis’ contention that the Palestinians were putting preconditions on the talks with demands for withdrawal from the disputed sites.
Obama also promised that Washington will doggedly pursue a breakthrough in the Middle East conflict, vowing that “we will be engaged in the region for the long haul.”
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also spoke Tuesday of a “window of opportunity” to achieve Middle East peace through an Israeli-Palestinian accord but warned that “the window is closing fast”.
The White House announced last week that Obama would meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on the sidelines of the General Assembly. He also is due to host Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Washington on Sept. 30.