(NEW YORK) -- Speaking to the United Nations General Assembly Wednesday, President Obama tried to answer critics who suggest he helped pave the way towards the current diplomatic kerfuffle over the pending UN resolution that would prematurely, in the president’s view, make Palestine a sovereign state and member of the UN.
The president cautioned United Nations members that peace will only come “if we can encourage the parties to sit down together, to listen to each other, and to understand each other’s hopes and fears. …And that is what the United Nations should be focused on in the weeks and months to come.”
The president made clear his opposition to the expected UN Security Council resolution. For weeks, American diplomats have been furiously lobbying the Palestinians to drop their bid, which the U.S. has publicly stated it will veto.
Granting Palestine membership in the United Nations as a sovereign state before any peace treaty with Israel has been worked out, the U.S. believes, could be a diplomatic hornet’s nest, with Israel all of a sudden occupying a sovereign nation, the Palestinians given access to the International Criminal Court and the Human Rights Council, and any future peace negotiations thrown into disarray.
The U.S. also does not want to be put into the position of vetoing the resolution, which could inflame passions in the region and throughout the Arab and Muslim worlds.
The president did not renew his call for Israel to return to its 1967 borders with mutually agreed upon land swaps, a call he made in May that angered Israeli officials. Wednesday Mr. Obama said that “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.”
The president offered a detailed and passionate defense of Israel’s “very real security concerns,” invoking the Holocaust and noting that the Jewish state “is surrounded by neighbors that have waged repeated wars against it,” that its “citizens have been killed by rockets fired at their houses and suicide bombs on their buses” and that Israeli children “come of age knowing that throughout the region, other children are taught to hate them.”
“These are facts!” the president said, deviating a bit from his prepared text. “They cannot be denied.”
The president addressed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict after heralding successes in South Sudan, Tunisia, the Ivory Coast, Libya, and Egypt.
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