Obama to UN: Israel, PA must launch peace talks 'without preconditions'
'I will not waiver in my pursuit of peace in Middle East,' U.S. president told UN General Assembly.
One day after a tripartite summit with Israeli and Palestinian leaders yielded no tangible results, United States President Barack Obama called on Wednesday for the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks "without preconditions."
Obama told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday that he was dissatisfied with their recent foot-dragging on getting Israeli-Palestinian talks restarted.
A senior U.S. administration source Tuesday told Haaretz that "during the tripartite meeting Obama strongly expressed his impatience."
The source said the meeting was "businesslike" but not cordial. Netanyahu and Abbas voiced their opinions but did not attack.
"The time has come to re-launch negotiations - without preconditions - that address the permanent-status issues: security for Israelis and Palestinians; borders, refugees and Jerusalem," Obama said in his first address to the world body since assuming office in January.
"The goal is clear: two states living side by side in peace and security - a Jewish State of Israel, with true security for all Israelis; and a viable, independent Palestinian state with contiguous territory that ends the occupation that began in 1967, and realizes the potential of the Palestinian people," Obama told the UN.
The Israeli government has refused to commit to a freeze of West Bank settlement construction, which the Palestinians have demanded as a precondition before the resumption of peace talks.
The United States has thus far failed to gain an Israeli pledge to cease settlement expansion, compelling it to soften its position on the issue to the dismay of the Palestinians.
"I will not waver in my pursuit of peace," Obama told the UN General Assembly in New York.
"I am not naive," the president told the UN. "I know this will be difficult. But all of us must decide whether we are serious about peace, or whether we only lend it lip-service."
Obama praised Israel and the Palestinians for steps taken that have improved the security situation and strengthened the West Bank economy, though he cautioned that more work remains to be done.
"We continue to call on Palestinians to end incitement against Israel, and we continue to emphasize that America does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements," Obama told world leaders at the UN.
Obama said America's historic leniency with Israeli settlements has been deleterious to the interests of both countries.
"The United States does Israel no favors when we fail to couple an unwavering commitment to its security with an insistence that Israel respect the legitimate claims and rights of the Palestinians," the president told the UN.
Obama also called on Palestinian supporters in the UN to halt "vitriolic" attacks against Israel.
"Nations within this body do the Palestinians no favors when they choose vitriolic attacks over a constructive willingness to recognize Israel's legitimacy," Obama said.
Obama also said on Wednesday he was committed to diplomacy with Iran and North Korea but that both nations must be held to account if they chose to pursue nuclear weapons.
"I am committed to diplomacy that opens a path to greater prosperity and a more secure peace for both nations if they live up to their obligations," Obama told the General Assembly.
"But if the governments of Iran and North Korea ... are oblivious to the dangers of escalating nuclear arms races in both East Asia and the Middle East - then they must be held accountable," he added.