Opinion: American Jewish Committee Response to Obama’s Speech

NEW YORK, May 19, 2011 – AJC praised President Obama’s call today for the Palestinian Authority to return to direct peace negotiations with Israel and to halt its current campaign to declare a state unilaterally.

“President Obama has sternly warned the Palestinians, and the international community, to stop this senseless drive to try to achieve a state without any negotiated agreement with Israel,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris.

“The parameters of a two-state solution are just as clear today as they were when Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas walked away from the peace talks last September,” said Harris. “The Palestinians must return now to close the deal.”

In a major address on U.S. policy in the Middle East, devoted mostly to America’s response to the unrest across the Arab world, President Obama said, “Efforts to delegitimize Israel will not end in peace. Symbolic actions to isolate Israel at the United Nations in September won’t create an independent state.”

Obama reaffirmed America’s “unshakeable” commitment to Israel’s security. Acknowledging the continuing security threats Israel faces, Obama declared that “Israel must be able to defend itself by itself” and a Palestinian state will be “non-militarized.”

AJC has long supported a negotiated two-state settlement and welcomed the president’s reaffirmation of this goal. “A lasting peace will involve two states for two peoples,” said Obama.  “Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland for the Jewish people, and the state of Palestine as the homeland for the Palestinian people; each state enjoying self-determination, mutual recognition, and peace.”

The president also stated clearly his concerns about the recent agreement between Fatah, the party of Palestinian President Abbas, and Hamas, which rules Gaza and has been designated by the U.S. and EU as a terrorist organization.

“Palestinian leaders will not achieve peace or prosperity if Hamas insists on a path of terror and rejection,” said Obama, adding that the Fatah-Hamas agreement itself “raises profound and legitimate questions for Israel.”

The president challenged Palestinian leaders to provide “a credible answer” to the question of “how can one negotiate with a party that has shown itself unwilling to recognize your right to exist.”

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