In his joint press conference in the Ramallah Muqata’a on Thursday, with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, Obama said:
(1) “Marhaba” [Arabic for “Hi”] – This is posted on the White House website, here.
(2) “I’ve returned to the West Bank because the United States is deeply committed to the creation of an independent and sovereign state of Palestine. The Palestinian people deserve an end to occupation and the daily indignities that come with it. Palestinians deserve to move and travel freely, and to feel secure in their communities. Like people everywhere, Palestinians deserve a future of hope — that their rights will be respected, that tomorrow will be better than today and that they can give their children a life of dignity and opportunity. Put simply, Palestinians deserve a state of their own.” – This is posted on the White House website, in an edited version [which omits the text in bold, above] here, with the full version here.
(3) “Here in the West Bank, I realize that this continues to be a difficult time for the Palestinian Authority financially. So I’m pleased that in recent weeks the United States has been able to provide additional assistance to help the Palestinian Authority bolster its finances. Projects through USAID will help strengthen governance, rule of law, economic development, education and health. We consider these to be investments in a future Palestinian state*”
*Details of this assistance were revealed after Obama left the region, and will be examined in another post here.
(4) “the United States remains committed to realizing the vision of two states, which is in the interests of the Palestinian people, and also in the national security interest of Israel, the United States, and the world. We seek an independent, a viable and contiguous Palestinian state as the homeland of the Palestinian people, alongside the Jewish State of Israel — two nations enjoying self-determination, security and peace”.
(5) “my administration is committed to doing our part. And I know that Secretary of State John Kerry intends to spend significant time, effort, and energy in trying to bring about a closing of the gap between the parties. We cannot give up on the search for peace. Too much is at stake. And if we’re going to succeed, part of what we’re going to have to do is to get out of some of the formulas and habits that have blocked progress for so long. Both sides are going to have to think anew. Those of us in the United States are going to have to think anew. But I’m confident that we can arrive at our destination to advance the vision of two nations, two neighbors at peace — Israel and Palestine”.
(6) If given the chance, one thing that I’m very certain of is that the Palestinians have the talent, the drive, and the courage to succeed in their own state. I think of the villages that hold peaceful protests because they understand the moral force of nonviolence. I think of the importance that Palestinian families place on education. I think of the entrepreneurs determined to create something new … That’s why we can’t give up, because of young Palestinians and young Israelis who deserve a better future than one that is continually defined by conflict. Whenever I meet these young people, whether they’re Palestinian or Israeli, I’m reminded of my own daughters, and I know what hopes and aspirations I have for them. And those of us in the United States understand that change takes time but it is also possible, because there was a time when my daughters could not expect to have the same opportunities in their own country as somebody else’s daughters. What’s true in the United States can be true here as well. We can make those changes, but we’re going to have to be determined. We’re going to have to have courage. We’re going to have to be willing to break out of the old habits, the old arguments, to reach for that new place, that new world”.
(7) “Now one of the challenges, I know, has been continued settlement activity in the West Bank area. And I’ve been clear with Prime Minister Netanyahu and other Israeli leadership that it has been the United States’ policy, not just for my administration but for all proceeding administrations, that we do not consider continued settlement activity to be constructive, to be appropriate, to be something that can advance the cause of peace. So I don’t think there’s any confusion in terms of what our position is … my argument is even though both sides may have areas of strong disagreement, may be engaging in activities that the other side considers to be a breach of good faith, we have to push through those things to try to get to an agreement — because if we get an agreement then it will be very clear what the nature of that agreement is: There will be a sovereign Palestinian state, a sovereign Jewish State of Israel. And those two states I think will be able to deal with each other the same way all states do. I mean, the United States and Canada has arguments once in a while…”
(8) E1, in particular…is an example of a public statement by the Israeli government that would be very difficult to square with a two-state solution. And I’ve said that to Prime Minister Netanyahu. I don’t think that’s a secret. With respect to whether there’s a requirement for a freeze or moratorium, I want to repeat what I just said earlier, which is if the only way to even begin the conversations is that we get everything right at the outset, or at least each party is constantly negotiating about what’s required to get into talks in the first place, then we’re never going to get to the broader issue, which is how do you actually structure a state of Palestine that is a sovereign, contiguous, and provide the Palestinian people dignity, and how do you provide Israel confidence about its security — which are the core issues. The core issue right now is, how do we get sovereignty for the Palestinian people, and how do we assure security for the Israeli people? And that’s the essence of this negotiation. And that’s not to say settlements are not important. It is to say that if we solve those two problems, the settlement problem will be solved…”
(9) “I will say this, that I think incremental steps that serve to delay and put off some of the more fundamental issues, rather than incremental steps that help to shape what a final settlement might look like, are probably not going to be the best approach, because it’s not clear that that would, in fact, build trust. If you have a situation where it looks like the incremental steps replace the broader vision, as opposed to incremental steps in pursuit of a broader vision, then I think what you end up getting is four more years, 10 more years, 20 more years of conflict and tension, in which both sides are testing boundaries of those incremental agreements. Whereas if we can get a broad-based agreement that assures the Palestinians that they have a state, and you have a comprehensive approach that ensures Israel the kind of security that they need, the likelihood of that deal holding and, ultimately, the sense of trust that comes from people-to-people relations, not just governmental relations, I think that’s much more likely to occur…”
Excerpts from remarks by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas: “The people of Palestine, Mr. President, who receive you today aspire to attain the simplest rights — the right to freedom, independence and peace, and look forward to that day to come in which they exercise normal and natural life over the land of the state of Palestine — the independent state of Palestine — along the borders of the 4th of June, 1967, with Jerusalem, the ‘Lady of the Cities’, as its capital, alongside the state of Israel. We, Mr. President, believe that peace is necessary and inevitable, and we also believe that it is possible. We believe that peacemaking, as much as it requires political courage, also requires an expression of good faith, a recognition of people’s rights, respect for the other, and dissemination of a culture of peace and a commitment to international legitimacy and its resolutions. Certainly, peace shall not be made through violence, occupation, walls, settlements, arrests, siege and denial of refugee rights…
[And] it is the duty of the Israeli government to at least halt the [settlement] activity so that we can speak of issues. And when we define our borders and their borders together, each side will know its territory in which it can do whatever it pleases. So the issue of settlement is clear. We never give up our vision, whether now or previously, but we continue to maintain this vision, and we believe the settlements are illegal and that settlement activity is illegal. We hope that the Israeli government understands this. We hope they listen to many opinions inside Israel itself speaking of the illegality of settlements. We spoke about this with Mr. President and we clarified our point of view on how we can reach a solution. Many Palestinians, when they see settlements everywhere in the West Band — and I don’t know who gave Israel that right — they do not trust the two-state solution or vision anymore. And this is very dangerous that people and the new generation reaches the conviction that it’s no more possible to believe in the two-state solution. We continue to believe in the two-state solution on the 1967 borders, and consequently, if peace between us and the Israelis is achieved, the Israelis will know very well that the Arab and Islamic world all together, which means 57 Arab and Muslim states, shall immediately recognize the State of Israel according to the road map and the Arab initiative”. Text also from the White House website here.