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Netanyahu: Obama 'Wearing Badge of Honor'

PM Binyamin Netanyahu thanked US president Barack Obama for standing with Israel, saying it was "a badge of honor."
By Gabe Kahn.
First Publish: 9/21/2011, 8:46 PM

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu thanked US President Barack Obama for his continued opposition to the Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas' statehood gambit at the United Nations, saying the president's stance was "a badge of honor."

"I want to thank you, Mr. President, for standing with Israel and supporting peace through direct negotiations," Netanyahu said. "We both agree this is the only way to achieve peace.  We both agree that Palestinians and the Israelis should sit down together and negotiate an agreement of mutual recognition and security.  I think this is the only way to get to a stable and durable peace."

Netanyahu did not directly challenge Obama's assertion that "the Palestinians deserve a state," but did dissent by saying PA arabs were unwilling to give Israel in peace - and that the bid "will not succeed."

"You’ve also made it clear that the Palestinians deserve a state, but it’s a state that has to make that peace with Israel, and therefore their attempt to shortcut this process, not negotiate peace – that attempt to get state membership in the United Nations will not succeed.  I think the Palestinians want to achieve a state in the international community, but they’re not prepared yet to give peace to Israel in return," Netanyahu said.

Expressing hope the international community would back away from support for Abbas' unilateral move in favor of bilateral negotiations, Netanyahu said, "And my hope is that there will be other leaders in the world, as part of the UN, who will meet your call, Mr. President, and oppose this effort to shortcut peace negotiations – in fact to avoid them – because I think that avoiding these negotiations is bad for Israel, bad for the Palestinians and bad for peace."

Netanyahu also commended Obama for standing firm in the face of the "automatic majorities" commanded by the Arab League and its allies in the Organization for African Unity, and Organization of Islamic Countries, which have traditionally voted as a block.

"I know that these leaders are under enormous pressure and I know that they are also in this house which has, from personal experience I can tell you, automatic majorities against Israel, but I think that standing your ground, taking this position of principle, which is also, I think, the right position to achieve peace – I think this is a badge of honor and I want to thank you for wearing that badge of honor, and also to express my hope that others will follow your example, Mr. President.  So I want to thank you."

Netanyahu is attending the opening of the UN General Assembly in New York in order to "speak Israel's truth to anyone who will listen."