Obama Urges Israel, Palestinians To 'Stand In Each Other's Shoes'

September 21, 2011

Mark Memmott

Spencer Platt
President Obama addresses the opening of the Untied Nations General Assembly on Sept. 21 in New York City.

In an address that focused on "the pursuit of peace," President Obama just told delegates at the U.N. General Assembly that people everywhere want "to live with dignity and freedom; to get an education and pursue opportunity; to love our families and our God."

It is world leaders' responsibility, he said, to build "the kind of peace that makes life worth living."

The president also addressed critics from the right who say he isn't strong enough in his support for Israel and critics from the left who say he should do more to support Palestinians' efforts to form their own state.

"Ultimately, it is Israelis and Palestinians who must live side by side," he said. "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."

We live-blogged as he spoke. Scroll down and read "up" if you want to see how his address went.

Update at 10:49 a.m. ET. "Peace is Hard" But Possible:

As he finishes, the president says that "I know that there is no straight line to progress, no single path to success. We come from different cultures, and carry with us different histories. But let us never forget that even as we gather here as heads of different governments, we represent citizens who share the same basic aspirations – to live with dignity and freedom; to get an education and pursue opportunity; to love our families and our God. To live in the kind of peace that makes life worth living. ... Peace is hard, but we know that it is possible. Together, let us resolve to see that it is defined by our hopes and not our fears. Together, let us work to make, not merely a peace, but a peace that will last."

Update at 10:46 a.m. ET. Standing up "For The Rights Of Gays And Lesbians":

After making the case for action on climate change, battling poverty and battling disease, the president says that "no country should deny people their rights because of who they love, which is why we must stand up for the rights of gays and lesbians everywhere. And no country can realize its potential if half its population cannot reach theirs. This week, the United States signed a new Declaration on Women's Participation. Next year, we should each announce the steps we are taking to break down economic and political barriers that stand in the way of women and girls. That is what our commitment to human progress demands."

Update at 10:40 a.m. ET. Nuclear Proliferation:

Turning to weapons of mass destruction, the president says that "America will continue to work for a ban on the testing of nuclear weapons, and the production of fissile material needed to make them."

Update at 10:36 a.m. ET. Israel And Palestine Must Learn "To Stand In Each Other's Shoes":

"That truth – that each side has legitimate aspirations – is what makes peace so hard," Obama says. "And the deadlock will only be broken when each side learns to stand in each other's shoes."

Update at 10:35 a.m. ET. Israel's Position:

After reaffirming America's "unshakeable" committment to Israel's security, Obama says "let's be honest with ourselves: Israel is surrounded by neighbors that have waged repeated wars against it. ...

"Israel deserves recognition. It deserves normal relations with its neighbors. And friends of the Palestinians do them no favors by ignoring this truth, just as friends of Israel must recognize the need to pursue a two state solution with a secure Israel next to an independent Palestine."

Update at 10:34 a.m. ET. Peace Will Not Come "Through Statements And Resolutions At The U.N.:

Continuing to talk about the Israeli-Palestinian issue, Obama says "I know that many are frustrated by the lack of progress. So am I. But the question isn't the goal we seek – the question is how to reach it. And I am convinced that there is no short cut to the end of a conflict that has endured for decades. Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the UN – if it were that easy, it would have been accomplished by now. 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."

Update at 10:32 a.m. ET. On Israel And Palestine:

"One year ago," says Obama, "I stood at this podium and called for an independent Palestine. 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. One year later, despite extensive efforts by America and others, the parties have not bridged their differences."

Update at 10:30 a.m. ET. American Will Support Universal Rights:

"We will always stand up for the universal rights that were embraced by this Assembly," says Obama. "Those rights depend upon elections that are free and fair; governance that is transparent and accountable; respect for the rights of women and minorities; and justice that is equal and fair."

Update at 10:28 a.m. ET. Will We Stand With Syria's Oppressors?

"In Iran, we have seen a government that refuses to recognize the rights of its own people," Obama says. "And as we meet here today, men, women and children are being tortured, detained and murdered by the Syrian regime. Thousands have been killed, many during the holy time of Ramadan. Thousands more have poured across Syria's borders. The Syrian people have shown dignity and courage in their pursuit of justice — protesting peacefully, standing silently in the streets, dying for the same values that this institution is supposed to stand for. The question for us is clear: Will we stand with the Syrian people, or with their oppressors?"

Update at 10:26 a.m. ET. "Peace Is Hard ... Progress Can Be Reversed":

After reviewing the remarkable events of the past year, from the Arab Spring to the killing of Osama bin Laden, the president says "let us remember: peace is hard. Progress can be reversed. Prosperity comes slowly. Societies can split apart. The measure of our success must be whether people can live in sustained freedom, dignity, and security."

Update at 10:23 a.m. ET. "This Is How The International Community Is Supposed To Work":

The president is recapping the historic events in the Mideast and North Africa this year. And on events in Libya, he says "the will of the coalition proved unbreakable, and the will of the Libyan people could not be denied. Forty-two years of tyranny was ended in six months. ... – nations standing together for the sake of peace and security; individuals claiming their rights."

Update at 10:20 a.m. ET. "We Stand At A Crossroads Of History":

"Yes, this has been a difficult decade,' Obama says. "But today, we stand at a crossroads of history with the chance to move decisively in the direction of peace. To do so, we must return to the wisdom of those who created this institution. The UN's Founding Charter calls upon us, 'to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security.' And Article 1 of this General Assembly's Universal Declaration of Human Rights reminds us that, "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.' Those bedrock beliefs – in the responsibility of states, and the rights of men and women – must be our guide."

Update at 10:18 a.m. ET. "The Tide Of War Is Receding":

"Let there be no doubt: the tide of war is receding," Obama says. "When I took office, roughly 180,000 Americans were serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. By the end of this year, that number will be cut in half, and it will continue to decline. This is critical to the sovereignty of Iraq and Afghanistan, and to the strength of the United States as we build our nation at home."

Update at 10:15 a.m. ET. "The Pursuit Of Peace":

As he begins, the president says he "would like to talk to you about a subject that is at the heart of the United Nations — the pursuit of peace in an imperfect world."

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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