President Obama Outlines Stance on Israel's Security and Peace Process
(May 19, 2011)
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
“For the Palestinians, efforts to delegitimize Israel will end in failure. Symbolic actions to isolate Israel at the United Nations in September won’t create an independent state. Palestinian leaders will not achieve peace or prosperity if Hamas insists on a path of terror and rejection. And Palestinians will never realize their independence by denying the right of Israel to exist.”
“As for Israel, our friendship is rooted deeply in a shared history and shared values. Our commitment to Israel’s security is unshakeable. And we will stand against attempts to single it out for criticism in international forums. But precisely because of our friendship, it’s important that we tell the truth: The status quo is unsustainable, and Israel too must act boldly to advance a lasting peace.”
-- President Barack Obama
May 19, 2011
President Obama has worked closely with the Israelis and Palestinians to end the conflict. He has stated frankly what everyone knows -- a lasting peace will involve two states for two peoples: Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland for the Jewish people, and the state of Palestine as the homeland for the Palestinian people, each state enjoying self determination, mutual recognition, and peace.
- President Obama believes that the core issues can only be negotiated and resolved in direct talks between the parties. This means that Israel will have to agree for a deal to be reached. The President has emphasized that no vote at the United Nations will ever create an independent Palestinian state.
- President Obama said that “a peace agreement must be based on borders and security arrangements that do not leave Israel vulnerable.”
- President Obama has said that the basis of the negotiations is clear -- “1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states.” This territorial formula, which has been used in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations for decades, means that the parties themselves will negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967 to account for the changes that have taken place over the last 44 years. This includes new demographic realities and the needs of both sides. This formula of “1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps” is fully consistent with the positions of earlier U.S. Administrations, including the 2004 Bush-Sharon letters.
- The President believes that every state has the right to self-defense, and that Israel must be able to defend itself – by itself – against any threat. He said that the security provisions of an agreement must be robust enough “to prevent a resurgence of terrorism, to stop the infiltration of weapons, and to provide effective border security.” He also said that the duration of the transition period must be agreed and of sufficient time for the security provisions to demonstrate their effectiveness.
President Obama has made clear that Israel cannot be expected to negotiate with Hamas, a terrorist group sworn to its destruction.
- In his speeches in Cairo, at the United Nations, and elsewhere, the President has consistently demanded that Hamas accept Israel’s right to exist, reject violence, and adhere to all existing agreements, before it can play a role in achieving Middle East peace.
- The President has spoken out forcefully to condemn Hamas attacks against Israelis. He has made clear that “it is a sign neither of courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus. That’s not how moral authority is claimed; that’s how it is surrendered.” At the United Nations, he emphasized that “the slaughter of innocent Israelis is not resistance -- it’s injustice.”
President Obama has called on all sides, Arabs, Palestinians, and Israelis alike, to do their part to help achieve Middle East peace.
- In Cairo, the President said that Arab states must recognize that they too have responsibilities to move towards peace, including by fostering a culture of peace. He said clearly that “threatening Israel with destruction – or repeating vile stereotypes about Jews – is deeply wrong,” and that denying the Holocaust is “baseless, ignorant, and hateful.”
- At the United Nations in 2010, the President said “I know many in this hall count themselves as friends of the Palestinians. But these pledges of friendship must now be supported by deeds.” He added that “those who long to see an independent Palestine must also stop trying to tear down Israel,“ and that “after 60 years in the community of nations, Israel’s existence must not be a subject for debate.
- In his May 19, 2011 speech, President Obama emphasized that a peace agreement must meet the needs of both sides, including by: ending the conflict and resolving all claims, achieving the goal of two states for two peoples with Israel as a Jewish state and homeland for the Jewish people, achieving secure and recognized borders for both sides, and devising robust security arrangements that will not leave Israel vulnerable.
President Obama has strongly opposed any effort to de-legitimize Israel or single it out in international forums.
- This is why the Obama Administration withdrew from the Durban Review Conference when it advanced anti-Israel sentiment, stood up strongly for Israel’s right to defend itself after the Goldstone Report, and vetoed the effort to insert the UN into matters that should be resolved between Israelis and Palestinians.
- In Cairo and at the United Nations, the President made clear that Israel’s legitimacy is not a matter for debate. In his May 19, 2001 speech, he said: “When I touched my hand against the Western Wall and placed my prayer between its ancient stones, I thought of all the centuries that the children of Israel had longed to return to their ancient homeland.”
President Obama has strengthened Israel’s security in tangible and concrete ways.
- Despite tough fiscal times, President Obama fought for and secured full funding for Israel in the FY 2011 appropriation bill, which includes $3 billion in Foreign Military Financing – the largest amount of funding for Israel in U.S. history.
- President Obama then secured an additional $205 million to help produce an Israeli-developed short-range rocket defense system called Iron Dome, which has recently helped defend Israeli communities against rocket attacks.
- Prime Minister Netanyahu told the AIPAC conference on May 23 that “Yesterday President Obama spoke about his ironclad commitment to Israel's security. He rightly said that our security cooperation is unprecedented… And he has backed those words with deeds.”
- President Obama has expanded U.S.-Israeli security and military cooperation on security challenges ranging from counterterrorism to preventing arms smuggling to Gaza to missile defense. In 2010, there were nearly 200 senior-level Department of Defense visitors to Israel, and Israeli officials visit the United States just as often.
- The United States and Israel conducted their largest ever joint military exercise, Juniper Cobra, in October 2009. Israeli forces now benefit from joint exercises and training opportunities, access to advanced U.S. military hardware, emergency stockpiles, and favorable terms for the acquisition of equipment.
President Obama has generated more international pressure on the Iranian regime than ever before.
- President Obama has said that the United States is determined to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. He has backed up this commitment with tangible steps to increase pressure substantially on the Iranian regime and raise the costs of its defiance of the international community.
- With President Obama’s leadership, the United States gained the support of Russia, China and other nations to pass United Nations Security Council resolution 1929, creating the most comprehensive and biting international sanctions regime the Iranian government has ever faced. This resolution imposes restrictions on Iran’s nuclear activities, ballistic missile program, conventional military exports to Iran, Iranian banks and financial transactions, and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
- The Obama Administration also worked with allies such as the European Union, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Australia, Canada, and others to adopt additional national measures to increase pressure on the Iranian regime, including in the financial, banking, insurance, transportation, and energy sectors. Iran is now virtually cut off from large parts of the international financial system.
- In addition to multilateral sanctions, President Obama worked with Congress to pass the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act, which strengthens existing U.S. sanctions, and makes it harder for the Iranian government to buy refined petroleum and the goods it needs to modernize its oil and gas sector. Already close to $60 billion in energy-related projects in Iran have been put on hold or discontinued.
- International companies are increasingly recognizing the risks of doing business with Iran and are abandoning existing business opportunities, declining to take advantage of new ones, and scaling back any existing relationships. This trend has been replicated across a broad range of industries. Examples of companies withdrawing from business with Iran include: Shell, Total, ENI, Statoil, Repsol, Lukoil, Kia, Toyota, Siemens, and foreign subsidiaries of U.S. firms such as GE, Honeywell, and Caterpillar