US President Barack Obama called for a Palestinian state and said that Jewish settlement activity was "counter-productive" to peace in a keynote speech to Israeli students in Jerusalem on Thursday.
In a keynote speech to Israeli students in Jerusalem, U.S. President Barack Obama said on Thursday that continued settlement activity was "counter-productive" to peace, adding that the Palestinians had a right to self-determination.
But he also insisted that now was the time for the Arab world to start normalizing relations with the Jewish state.
Obama made his remarks on his first official visit to the country, just hours after meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
"Israelis must recognize that...an independent Palestine must be viable, that real borders will have to be drawn," Obama said in a nationally televised speech.
Coupling his push for a more conciliatory Israeli approach to the Palestinians with a reaffirmation of his commitment to Israel's security, Obama also promised that Washington would "do what we must to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran".
Obama also called upon Israel to reverse what he termed an "undertow of isolation", arguing that the only way for Israel to endure and thrive in the region as a Jewish and democratic state is through the realization of an independent and viable Palestine.
But Obama also sought to convince Israelis that he understood the deep and ancient Jewish ties to Israel, seeking to correct an impression that he was less than appreciative of their history.
Some in the crowd heckled Obama at one point, but the president - who has made outreach to ordinary Israelis a main thrust of his visit - received rounds of loud applause for his comments on the need for peace with the Palestinians.
US-sponsored talks between Israel and the Palestinians broke down in 2010 over the issue of Jewish settlements, and Palestinian President Abbas repeated on Thursday that he wanted to see construction halted on land seized by Israel in the 1967 Middle-East war.
Obama, who met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday, agreed in Ramallah that settlement building did not "advance the cause of peace", but stopped short of demanding a construction freeze to enable a resumption of stalled negotiations.
(FRANCE 24 with wires)
Date created : 2013-03-21