President Barack Obama addressed the General Assembly of the United Nations on Thursday, stressing the dangers of international terrorism, religious divide and the uncertainties of globalization.
Besides America’s efforts at pursuing terrorists worldwide, the president talked of his nuclear nonproliferation agenda, pointing out that both his own country and Russia have agreed to shrink their atomic weapons arsenals. Obama, who previously saw progress in relations with Iran as a result of the sanctions regime imposed upon it, repeated his willingness to negotiate with Tehran but demanded that it prove the peaceful intent of its nuclear program.
President Obama spoke extendedly on the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks that were relaunched in Washington earlier this month. He admitted that “many are pessimistic about this process” but urged his audience to consider the alternatives. “If an agreement is not reached,” he warned, “Palestinians will never know the pride and dignity that comes with their own state.”
Israelis will never know the certainty and security that comes with sovereign and stable neighbors who are committed to coexistence. The hard realities of demography will take hold. More blood will be shed. This Holy Land will remain a symbol of our differences, instead of our common humanity.
The president refused to accept that prospect. “Peace must be made by Israelis and Palestinians,” he said, but the rest of the world has responsibilities as well.
Those of us who are friends of Israel must understand that true security for the Jewish state requires an independent Palestine — one that allows the Palestinian people to live with dignity and opportunity. And those of us who are friends of the Palestinians must understand that the rights of the Palestinian people will be won only through peaceful means — including genuine reconciliation with a secure Israel.
Countries that count themselves among the Palestinians’ friends “should help the Palestinian Authority with political and financial support,” said Obama, “and — in so doing — help the Palestinians build the institutions of their state. And those who long to see an independent Palestine rise must stop trying to tear Israel down.”
Although the president went out of his way to prove that America is still Israel’s greatest of allies — promising that “efforts to chip away at Israel’s legitimacy will only be met by the unshakeable opposition of the United States” — he believes that an independent Palestinian state could join the United Nations next year if only the world stops making “long speeches about it” and “table the same resolutions.” According to Obama, “this time will be different.”
[T]his time we will not let terror, or turbulence, or posturing, or petty politics stand in the way. This time, we will think not of ourselves, but of the young girl in Gaza who wants to have no ceiling on her dreams, or the young boy in Sderot who wants to sleep without the nightmare of rocket fire. This time, we should draw upon the teachings of tolerance that lie at the heart of three great religions that see Jerusalem’s soil as sacred. This time we should reach for what’s best within ourselves.
As part of his administration’s offensive to restore America’s moral leadership in the world, Obama further talked at length about his country’s support for freedom and democracy around the world. “History is on the side of liberty,” he said, while “the strongest foundations of human progress lie in open economies, open societies, open governments.” America, he added, “is working to shape a world that fosters this openness.”