Obama at UN: 'End Occupation of West Bank'
United States President Barack Obama lauded Israeli and Palestinian Authority leaders in a speech Tuesday at the United Nations.
Obama spoke in support of the ongoing Israel-PA peace talks, and said he was glad to see what he termed "a growing recognition within Israel that the occupation of the West Bank is tearing at the democratic fabric of the Jewish state."
Young Arabs in Ramallah are “understandably cynical” regarding the talks and "frustrated by their families enduring the daily indignity of occupation,” he said.
The “West Bank” is the term American and other international leaders use to refer to Judea and Samaria (Shomron). The territories were settled by both Jews and Arabs until 1948, when Jordan won control of the area in a war with the fledgling Jewish state and expelled its Jewish residents.
Israel won the territory back 19 years later, in 1967, and an estimated 600,000 Israeli Jews currently live in the region. Estimates of the number of Palestinian Authority Arabs in the region range from 1.5 million to 2.4 million.
The PA has claimed the area as Arab territory, to be used to establish a PA-led Arab state of “Palestine.” PA leaders term Jews living in the region “settlers” and insist that all Jews be forced to leave.
Allowing the PA to create the Arab state it seeks is the only way to peace, Obama declared. “Friends of Israel, including the United States, must recognize that Israel’s security… depends on the realization of a Palestinian state,” he said.
“Arab states - and those who have supported the Palestinians - must realize that stability will only be served through a two-state solution with a secure Israel,” he added.
"Already, Israeli and Palestinian leaders have demonstrated a willingness to take significant political risks," Obama said. "President Abbas has put aside efforts to short-cut the pursuit of peace and come to the negotiating table. Prime Minister Netanyahu has released Palestinian prisoners, and reaffirmed his commitment to a Palestinian state."
Peace between Israel and the PA “will be a powerful tool to defeat extremists throughout the region,” he said.
World Sometimes Called to Act
Obama also addressed instability in Egypt and Syria. He hinted at a continued willingness to back military intervention in Syria over the use of chemical weapons.
Sometimes, he said, violence against civilians becomes so bad “that the international community will be called upon to act.”
“Even when American interests are not directly threatened, we stand ready to do our part… to protect basic human rights,” he said.
Obama continued to insist that the Syrian regime was behind a chemical weapons attack in August that left at least 600 Syrian civilians dead. "The evidence is overwhelming that the Assad regime used such weapons on August 21st. U.N. inspectors gave a clear accounting that advanced rockets fired large quantities of sarin gas at civilians. These rockets were fired from a regime-controlled neighborhood, and landed in opposition neighborhoods. It is an insult to human reason – and to the legitimacy of this institution – to suggest that anyone other than the regime carried out this attack," he argued.
However, he continued, "As I've discussed with President Putin... my preference has always been a diplomatic resolution to this issue."