Headlines March 22, 2013
Obama Urges Palestinians to Drop Demand for Israeli Settlement Freeze
President Obama more closely aligned himself with the Israeli government’s terms for resuming peace talks with the Palestinians Thursday as he continued his visit to the region. Speaking in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Obama urged Palestinians to drop their longstanding demand for Israel to halt settlement construction on Palestinian land as a precondition for talks.
President Obama: "What I shared with President Abbas, and I will share with the Palestinian people, is that if the expectation is, is that we can only have direct negotiations when everything is settled ahead of time, then there’s no point for negotiations. So I think it’s important for us to work through this process, even if there are irritants on both sides."Obama had previously backed the Palestinian demand for a settlement freeze at the start of his first term. On Thursday, Obama said the Israeli settlements are not "constructive" or "appropriate," but he stopped short of calling them illegal, a point stressed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
President Mahmoud Abbas: "Regarding the issue of settlements, it is not only our perception that settlements are illegal, but it is a global perspective. Everybody considers settlements not only a hurdle, but even more than a hurdle, towards the two-state solution."
Protester Heckles Obama over Israeli Killings, Rachel Corrie Death
President Obama gave a key address to Israeli students in Jerusalem on Thursday, where he was interrupted by a heckler. The protester was an Arab-Israeli student named Rabiyah Aid. He told the Israeli newspaper Ynet he had called out to Obama: "Have you really come to promote the peace process or to provide Israel with more weapons to kill the Palestinian people? On your way here did you see the [West Bank] fence or the killer of Rachel Corrie?" Rachel Corrie was the U.S. student crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer in Gaza on March 16, 2003, while attempting to block the demolition of a Palestinian home.
Obama Acknowledges Plight of Palestinians in Jerusalem Speech
During his speech to Israeli students, President Obama touted U.S. investment in Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system and reiterated his support for Israel to "defend itself." He also called for peace under a two-state solution and acknowledged the plight of Palestinians under Israeli occupation.
President Obama: "Put yourself in their [Palestinians’] shoes. Look at the world through their eyes. It is not fair that a Palestinian child cannot grow up in a state of their own, living their entire lives with the presence of a foreign army that controls the movements not just of those young people but their parents, their grandparents, every single day."President Obama also invoked the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran during his speech, repeating his past statement that "all options are on the table."