Freeze settlements: Obama

Freeze settlements: Obama

US President Barack Obama appealed directly on Thursday to the Israeli people to put themselves in the shoes of stateless Palestinians and recognise that Jewish settlement activity in occupied territory hurts prospects for peace.

By (Reuters)

Published: Fri 22 Mar 2013, 12:42 AM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 5:52 PM

Following talks in Ramallah with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, Obama also expressed full backing for the establishment of a Palestinian state “Palestinians deserve a state of their own,” he said. “The United States is deeply committed to seeing... an independent, sovereign state of Palestine.”

Abbas, on his part, reaffirmed his demand for a settlement freeze, but held out the prospect of a broader peace between Israel and other Arab states if a Palestinian state was created.

Barack Obama waves to the media as he walks with Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah on Thursday. — AP

In a showcase speech in Jerusalem to Israeli university students, Obama coupled his plea with an acknowledgement of the Jewish state’s security concerns in a region destabilised by the West’s nuclear standoff with Iran and civil war in Syria.

But he urged Israel’s younger generation to demand that their politicians take risks for peace in an address interrupted frequently by applause, including a standing ovation for the president during a brief outburst by a heckler. “You must create the change that you want to see,” he told his youthful audience. Obama, on his first official visit to Israel and the occupied West Bank, said only peace could bring true security, but he did not offer any new ideas on how to revive Palestinian-Israeli peace negotiations, stalled since 2010.

“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 realisation of an independent and viable Palestine,” he said.

“Israelis must recognise that continued settlement activity is counterproductive to the cause of peace, and that an independent Palestine must be viable, that real borders will have to be drawn,” Obama said, stopping short of calling for a construction freeze.

“Put yourself in their (Palestinians’) shoes. Look at the world through their eyes,” he said.

“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.”

While demanding a freeze on settlement activities, Abbas said that if a Palestinian state was created, there would be broader prospects of peace between Arab states and Israel: “If peace came between us and the Israelis, Israel knows well that all the Arab and Islamic countries, 57 states, will recognise the state of Israel immediately.”

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