In his wide-ranging speech on his vision for the Middle East, U.S. Barack Obama said the map of Israel and Palestine should adhere to the borders that existed prior to the Six-Day War of 1967.
The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states,” Obama stated in his speech.
The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their potential, in a sovereign and contiguous state. As for security, every state has the right to self-defence, and Israel must be able to defend itself – by itself – against any threat.
Obama also urged Israel and the Palestinian to continue peace talks, while assuring that the Palestinians will not be able to “delegitimize” the Jewish state.
For the Palestinians, efforts to delegitimize Israel will end in failure. Symbolic actions to isolate Israel at the United Nations in September won’t create an independent state, he said.
Palestinian leaders will not achieve peace or prosperity if Hamas insists on a path of terror and rejection. And Palestinians will never realize their independence by denying the right of Israel to exist.
Obama defended Israel’s right to use force.
Israel must be able to defend itself – by itself – against any threat, said Obama, adding that provisions must be robust enough to prevent a resurgence of terrorism; to stop the infiltration of weapons; and to provide effective border security, he said.
The full and phased withdrawal of Israeli military forces should be coordinated with the assumption of Palestinian security responsibility in a sovereign, non-militarized state.
While asserting that washignton will remain a strong ally of Israel, Obama also urged the Israelis to make concessions in order to establish peace.
As for Israel, our friendship is rooted deeply in a shared history and shared values” he said.
“Our commitment to Israel’s security is unshakeable. And we will stand against attempts to single it out for criticism in international forums. But precisely because of our friendship, it is important that we tell the truth: the status quo is unsustainable, and Israel too must act boldly to advance a lasting peace.
A Jerusalem-based correspondent for Al Jazeera, Nisreen El-Shamayleh, commented: In different parts of his speech Obama shifted from a view closer to the Israeli approach to negotiations and at other times closer to the Palestinian approach. He supported the Palestinian's idea of territorial contingency – meaning that the Israelis would have to withdraw from some of the settlement blocks in order for the Palestinian state to be viable and enjoy that contingency.”
Shamayleh added: [Obama] also talked about settlement construction had to stop. That is obviously another thing the Palestinians would like to hear from Obama.Obama more importantly talked about the status quo and how it was unsustainable. That is bad news for [Israel Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu.”
In addition, Shamayleh commented: On the other hand, Obama supported other approaches of the Israelis that they share in common. In that Jerusalem will be discussed later ... refugees will be discussed later ... the Palestinian state has to be demilitarized ... Israel must enjoy security.
A spokesman for Palestinian Fatah, which runs the West Bank, said Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas “ffirms his appreciation for President Obama’s declaration regarding people’s right to self-determination, freedom and dignity, as well as ensuring freedom of worship.The Palestinians need more than any other people such issues to get rid of occupation.”
Palestinian Hamas, which controls Gaza, said after Obama’s speech: What Obama needs to do is not to add slogans but to take concrete steps to protect the rights of the Palestinian people and the Arab nation.”
However, Hamas spokesman Ismail Radwan told Agence France Press that his group does not believe in US policies since they are always biased in favor of Israel and seek to deny Palestinian rights.
Netanyahu is scheduled to visit Washington tomorrow.
Palash has worked as a business journalist for 21 years in New York.