Obama's Middle East Speech: 1967 Lines For Israel-Palestine, Warning For Assad
The President took aim at Israel, one of the United States' allies in the Middle East, calling for the end of occupation of Arab land within the country, a measure to seemingly try and ease doubts from the Arab world of impartial stance from the U.S. in mediation between both sides.
"The dream of a Jewish and democratic state cannot be fulfilled with permanent occupation," President Obama said Thursday.
The President went on to call for a non-militarized Palestinian state based on the borders of Israel before the Six-Day War in 1967.
From The New York Times:
“At a time when the people of the Middle East and North Africa are casting off the burdens of the past, the drive for a lasting peace that ends the conflict and resolves all claims is more urgent that ever,” he said.
Although Mr. Obama said that “the core issues” dividing Israelis and Palestinians remained to be negotiated, including the searing questions of Jerusalem and the fate of Palestinian refugees, he spoke with striking frustration that efforts to support an agreement had so far failed. “The international community is tired of an endless process that never produces an outcome,” he said.
The President is scheduled to host Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Friday to discuss Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. Obama's strong words to Israel may complicate discussions tomorrow, as Netanyahu called Obama's plan "indefensible."
[Netanyahu] urged Obama to commit to the assurances laid out in 2004 by then president George W. Bush, who said "new realities on the ground," meant a "full and complete return" to the 1967 borders was "unrealistic."
"Prime Minister Netanyahu expects to hear a reaffirmation from President Obama of US commitments made to Israel in 2004, which were overwhelmingly supported by both houses of Congress," Netanyahu's statement said.
"Among other things, those commitments relate to Israel not having to withdraw to the 1967 lines, which are both indefensible and which would leave major Israeli population centres in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) beyond those lines," it added.
President Obama also addressed unrest in the Middle East in his speech, referencing the alleged human rights violations in Syria. He followed up the sanctions he imposed on the country on Wednesday with a harsh warning for al-Assad.
"President Assad now has a choice: He can lead that transition, or get out of the way. The Syrian government must stop shooting demonstrators and allow peaceful protests; release political prisoners and stop unjust arrests; allow human rights monitors to have access to cities like Daraa; and start a serious dialogue to advance a democratic transition. Otherwise, President Assad and his regime will continue to be challenged from within and isolated abroad," he said.
He also said that Syria has sought help from Iran "in the tactics of suppression."
"This speaks to the hypocrisy of the Iranian regime, which says it stand for the rights of protesters abroad, yet suppresses its people at home. Let us remember that the first peaceful protests were in the streets of Tehran."
Obama's speech was also aired on Syrian state television.