Obama: Like in Iran Deal, Diplomacy Needed for Israel and Palestine

'Just think about what we’ve done these last eight years without firing a shot,' U.S. president says in final major national defense speech.

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks in Florida on December 6, 2016.
Chris O'Meara, AP

Diplomatic efforts similar to the ones that brought about the Iranian nuclear deal are required to resolve the Israel-Palestinian conflict, U.S. President Barack Obama said on Tuesday evening.

In his final major national defense speech as president, Obama told troops at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida, that "diplomatic efforts, no matter how frustrating or difficult they sometimes appear, are going to be required to resolve the conflicts roiling the in Middle East, from Yemen, to Syria, to Israel and Palestine."

"Just think about what we’ve done these last eight years without firing a shot.  We’ve rolled back Iran’s nuclear program. That’s not just my assessment, that’s the assessment of Israeli intelligence, even though they were opposed to the deal," Obama noted.

"Rather than offer false promises that we can eliminate terrorism by dropping more bombs or deploying more and more troops or fencing ourselves off from the rest of the world, we have to take a long view of the terrorist threat and we have to pursue a smart strategy that can be sustained," Obama said.

Obama will turn over the White House on January 20 to Republican President-elect Donald Trump who has been sharply critical of his administration's approach to fighting terrorism.

Trump referred to Obama and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton as the "co-founders" of Islamic State during the presidential campaign, blaming them for the initial spread of the militant group.

The White House said Obama's national security speech had been planned long before the November 8 election and was not aimed specifically at the incoming Trump administration

But during his speech, Obama spoke of the importance of adhering to American laws and values and against reinstating the use of waterboarding or imposing a religious test on immigrants, two positions that Trump has supported in the past.

"We are fighting terrorists who claim to fight on behalf of Islam.  But they do not speak for over a billion Muslims around the world, and they do not speak for American Muslims, including many who wear the uniform of the United States of America’s military," Obama said.

The president added, "If we stigmatize good, patriotic Muslims, that just feeds the terrorists’ narrative.  It fuels the same false grievances that they use to motivate people to kill.  If we act like this is a war between the United States and Islam, we’re not just going to lose more Americans to terrorist attacks, but we’ll also lose sight of the very principles we claim to defend."