Obama Tells Israelis “Peace is Necessary,” Urges Youth to “Claim the Future”

March 21, 2013 12:29 pm 16 comments

U.S. President Barack Obama addresses Israelis in Jerusalem March 21, 2013. Photo: Youtube

U.S. President Barack Obama gave his long-awaited speech to the Israeli people Thursday night at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem. The lengthy speech lasted nearly an hour and focused on issues of security, peace, and prosperity.

The president didn’t shy away from controversial issues, telling the audience, “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.” This got a standing ovation from the crowd, before he said it was a goal that could be realized as Israel does “have a true partner in President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad.”

Obama struck a note of solidarity with Palestinian Arabs, asking Israelis to “Put yourself in their [the Palestinians'] shoes  – look at the world through their eyes. It is not fair that a Palestinian child cannot grow up in a state of her own, and lives with the presence of a foreign army that controls the movements of her parents every single day. It is not just when settler violence against Palestinians goes unpunished.  It is not right to prevent Palestinians from farming their lands; to restrict a student’s ability to move around the West Bank; or to displace Palestinian families from their home. 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.”

And he issued a challenge to Israelis to make peace, not only with the Palestinians but with neighboring countries as well: “There will be many voices that say this change is not possible. But remember this: Israel is the most powerful country in this region. Israel has the unshakeable support of the most powerful country in the world. Israel has the wisdom to see the world as it is, but also the courage to see the world as it should be.”

The speech was not without its light moments. To start, the president addressed the perceived feud between himself and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, saying, “any drama between me and my friend Bibi over the years was just a plot to create material for Eretz Nehederet.”

At one point President Obama was interrupted by a protestor. He stopped, waited for the audience member to quiet down, then said he “wouldn’t feel at home” if there hadn’t been at least one heckler.

The president made it clear that he understood some wouldn’t agree with his positions, but said that “the easiest thing for me to do would be to put this issue aside, and express unconditional support for whatever Israel decides to do. But I want you to know that I speak to you as a friend who is deeply concerned and committed to your future.”

President Obama also addressed security fears in the region. Of Hezbollah he said, “every country that values justice should call Hezbollah what it truly is – a terrorist organization.”

He demanded that “Assad must go so that Syria’s future can begin,” and reiterated that he has “made it clear to Bashar al-Assad and all who follow his orders: we will not tolerate the use of chemical weapons against the Syrian people or the transfer of these weapons to terrorists.”

The president also tried to ease concerns about his position towards Iran, telling the audience: “All of us have an interest in resolving this issue peacefully. Iran must not get a nuclear weapon. This is not a danger that can be contained. As President, I have said to the world that all options are on the table for achieving our objectives.”

One of the moments that received the most applause was when the president voiced his support for Israel’s inalienable right to exist. “Those who adhere to the ideology of rejecting Israel’s right to exist might as well reject the earth beneath them and the sky above, because Israel is not going anywhere,” he said.

President Obama’s speech wasn’t merely a chance for him to address regional concerns, but one in which he took the opportunity to express his admiration for the country.

“Israel has built a prosperous nation – through kibbutzeem that made the desert bloom, business that broadened the middle class, and innovators who reached new frontiers – from the smallest microchip to the orbits of space.

“Israel has established a thriving democracy – with a spirited civil society, proud political parties, a tireless free press, and a lively public debate – lively may even be an understatement,” he said.

He also touted the Jewish state’s financial prowess, saying that “If people want to see the future of the world economy, they should look at Tel Aviv” and again issued a challenge to conclude the speech: “Today, as we face the twilight of Israel’s founding generation, you – the young people of Israel – must now claim the future. It falls to you to write the next chapter in the story of this great nation.”

Click here to read the full text of the speech.

16 Comments

  • Obama speaks to the students because they do not have the wisdom and judgement of the elders. That was the way he weaseled his way into White House. You must not rely on what he says. Too often his words differ from his actions.

  • Dave has it right. I tis unfair to judge how well received was the President’s talk. The President spoke before a cherry picked crowd. Excluding Settlers or Religious Jews. Further ignoring Arab terror or ancestoral right though glossed over by the president is very telling about his real feelings. Also the fact there is but one Jewish homeland and 22 Islamic countries the fact this was lost on the president is unfortunate.

  • Truely i am skeptical about his thought process. He has sucessfully failed to convey his true intent.

    Isreal existence is unquestionable, from whatever the sources the question arise. Let it’s author and finisher will give the replay.

    May Isreal the beloved and the choosen one, through them only the entire human generation is saved from their sins. Jesus christ has borned as a jew –

    may the nation enjoy the peance in its abundence.

    Wishing all the best for the nation Isreal.

    Manoj Jose

  • Don’t be fooled O, Israel. President Obama’s a deceiver, and liar on his Middle East Palestinian State campaign.

  • President Obama is personable,charming and a wonderful orator but his good intent does not change facts on the ground. Abbas and Fayyad are not reliable partners for a lasting peace.

  • The usual Right Wing Nuts have put out their thoughtless, insulting words. Figures.
    The article is a good one – pretty straight – and thank you for that!! No twists and turns for once!
    What kind of idiots disparage the attempt to make peace in the world?! For God’s sake! I don’t recognize Jewish values or Jewish wisdom in these nasty, stupid, short-sighted, childish comments. Just pathetic.
    Where are the wise and mature, intelligent voices amongst your readers? I’d like to hear what THEY have to say!!

    • John L Jordan

      Jonella, what you leave out of your desire for peace is the fact that the Muslims do not want peace with Israel. What they do want very badly is for Israel to vanish and never exist again. Those are the facts on the ground at this moment, Jonella. Perhaps in 3 or 4 generations Muslims will have succeeded in removing the “Death To Infidels” doctrine from the Koran. But for now, it is what it is. And it makes no difference what Obama, Netanyahu, or any Muslim leader says about peace. There is no peace between Muslims and the rest of the “infidel” world. Muslims do not acknowledge the existence of Israel and will not tolerate “the infidel” anywhere the Muslims are in a majority. Sad, but all too true.

    • Jonella, since when Judea and Samaria are the lands that belong to Palestinians? Does the name Judea doesn’t tell you to whom it belongs and always did? It’s a Jewish land that was occupied by Jordan before 1968. There were no Palestinians (as an Arab group of people) around at that time. Palestine was always Israel and it was called this way by Romans.
      You do not know history and called the right wings nuts because they do not want to give away their own land which is their home. To make peace in the world sacrificing Israel? Are you serious?
      You are so stupid and ignorant that you do not understand a simple fact: If Israel will lay down her weapons there will be no Israel, if Arabs will lay down their weapons then there will be peace.
      There are 22 Arab countries and only one Jewish state! Long live Israel!!!!!

  • The same BS…The Sultan repeat himself…

  • David Sabghir

    I am extremely perturbed that Obama made his speech ‘to the people of Israel’, through the students and not through the Knesset, as if he believes that the Knesset does not speak for the People! To me this speaks volumes, as does his failure to visit the Kotel. I don’t believe a word that that person says. How would he feel if a so-called ally came to the US and rather than speak before Congress, speaks to the left wing law students at Harvard or NYU? And visits a museum rather than the White House or the Lincoln Memorial?

    The real question is what to do about Iran prior to its going Nuclear, which date is fast approaching.

    A peace partner with Abbas? Is the guy nuts?

    • Sadly next to G.W. Bush, Obama is the next stupid prez of the US. He cannot protect our access to Social Security and Medicare as he gave them up on the bargaining table. So, he is no better when it comes to Israel’s security. He is willing to sacrifice Israel to the Hamas, Iran, etc.! Eh!

  • Hartsdale Granny

    Agree 100% with you, Dave!

  • I wish President Obama would have stayed home and the money saved on the plane, security, transportation, accommodation for the large delegation he brought on this junket spent on restoring White House tours and the Israeli charity of his choice.

  • OBAMA told his truth in his toast to Rashid Khalidi. Everything he says in this week’s trip to Israel is just for show. The toast to Khalidi was for the dough.

  • Israel: Let’s get back to the negotiating table.
    Palestinians: We won’t negotiate.
    Obama: Israel, you better go back to the negotiating table.

    Anyone see a problem here?

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