NY: Obama tells Abbas US will veto Palestinians at UN

US president warns that UN action would not achieve Palestinian state, White House says; "We would have to oppose any action at UNSC."

Obama meets with Abbas 311 (photo credit: REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)
Obama meets with Abbas 311
(photo credit: REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)
NEW YORK - US President Barack Obama told Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday that UN action would not achieve a Palestinian state and the United States would veto any Security Council move to recognize Palestinian statehood, the White House said.
"We would have to oppose any action at the UN Security Council including, if necessary, vetoing," Ben Rhodes, the White House national security council spokesman, told reporters after Obama met Abbas in New York.
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At the same time, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Wednesday evening before a meeting with US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton in New York that negotiations with the Palestinians are needed in order to reach a peace agreement.
When asked about the settlements in a joint press conference, Netanyahu said "I did something that no previous Israeli government did. I actually froze any construction for ten months, waited nine months and one week." He went on to say that "the Palestinians finally came and said, well, keep on freezing."
The prime minister said that Israel concluded with the United States that the real issues must be addressed in order to get peace. "We have to negotiate the issues to resolve them. We can’t just negotiate about the negotiations," he added.
Earlier on Wednesday, Obama told the UN General Assembly that there could be “no shortcuts” to peace between the Israelis and Palestinians, and that negotiations between the two parties would be the only means to achieving a true and lasting peace.
In his 20-minute speech before the international body, Obama devoted significant time to discussing the Israeli- Palestinian conflict.
Obama alluded to his remarks before the General Assembly in 2010. In that speech, he had expressed his hope that there would be a Palestinian state requesting membership in 2011 – remarks that could be seen as prescient in light of Abbas’s plans to petition the Security Council to recognize Palestine as a state.
However, Obama distinguished between what he had said last year and the situation before the international body today.
“One year ago, I stood at this podium and called for an independent Palestine,” the US president said. “I believed then – and I believe now – that the Palestinian people deserve a state of their own. But what I also said is that genuine peace can only be realized between Israelis and Palestinians themselves.”
Noting that one year later, Israelis and Palestinians “have not bridged their differences,” Obama iterated the American position – albeit implicitly rather than explicitly referencing Abbas – that peace can only be achieved through bilateral negotiations.
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“Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the UN – if it were that easy, it would have been accomplished by now,” Obama said. “Ultimately, it is Israelis and Palestinians who must live side by side. Ultimately, it is Israelis and Palestinians – not us – who must reach agreement on the issues that divide them: on borders and security; on refugees and Jerusalem.”
Peace, he said, “depends upon compromise among peoples who must live together long after our speeches are over, and our votes have been counted.”
The president cited Northern Ireland and southern Sudan as examples of people who put aside their differences in the name of compromise and a livable peace: “That is the path to a Palestinian state.”
While emphasizing his support for an independent Palestinian state, Obama did so comparatively briefly. He characterized America’s commitment to Israel’s security as “unshakeable,” highlighting instances of attacks on Israel and referencing the Holocaust.
“America’s commitment to Israel’s security is unshakeable, and our friendship with Israel is deep and enduring,” Obama said. “And so we believe that any lasting peace must acknowledge the very real security concerns that Israel faces every single day.
“Let’s be honest: Israel is surrounded by neighbors that have waged repeated wars against it.
Israel’s citizens have been killed by rockets fired at their houses and suicide bombs on their buses. Israel’s children come of age knowing that throughout the region, other children are taught to hate them,” the president said. “Israel, a small country of less than eight million people, looks out at a world where leaders of much larger nations threaten to wipe it off of the map.
“The Jewish people carry the burden of centuries of exile, persecution, and the fresh memory of knowing that six million people were killed simply because of who they were,” the president said.