(photo credit: Associated Press)
President Barack Obama is exhorting the world to unite around the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, challenging the United Nations to support an agreement that would create an independent Palestine and a secure Israel in a year's time.
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In a speech to the annual session of the UN General Assembly on Thursday, Obama will call on world leaders to cast aside decades of division over the conflict, overcome cynicism and prove their support for a settlement to be reached by the two sides that his administration is now pushing against long odds.
Without a deal, he will say, "more blood will be shed" and "this Holy Land will remain a symbol of our differences, instead of our common humanity," according to portions of the text released by the White House in advance of the speech.
"If an agreement is not reached, Palestinians will never know the pride and dignity that comes with their own state," he says. "Israelis will never know the certainty and security that comes with sovereign and stable neighbors who are committed to coexistence."
The excerpts released by the White House dealt only with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and made no mention of other foreign policy initiatives that Obama is expected to champion in his full remarks. The emphasis underscored the urgency of overcoming hurdles that he has met less than a month after relaunching direct negotiations between the parties.
"Those of us who are friends of Israel must understand that true security for the Jewish state requires an independent Palestine," he will say. "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."
"Many in this hall count themselves as friends of the Palestinians," he was to say. "But these pledges must now be supported by deeds."
Obama was to urge the UN in its 60th year to look beyond past Middle East peace failures and get on with the task at hand.
"We can come back here, next year, as we have for the last 60, and make long speeches about it," he was to say. "We can read familiar lists of grievances. We can table the same resolutions. We can further empower the forces of rejectionism and hate."
"We can do that," he was to say. "Or, we can say that this time will be different, that this time we will not let terror or turbulence or posturing or petty politics stand in the way.
"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. If we do,
when we come back here next year, we can have an agreement that will
lead to a new member of the United Nations — an independent state of
Palestine, living in peace with Israel."
Obama's speech was his second to the world body and comes amid a
three-day UN-dominated trip to New York, where the president will also
meet privately with the leaders of China, Japan, Colombia, Azerbaijan
and Kyrgyzstan. In addition, he will host Southeast Asian leaders and
attend a meeting aimed at preventing renewed civil war in Sudan.
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