President Obama’s Trip to Israel, March 2013

Remarks by the President and President Peres of Israel at State Dinner 3/21/13

President Peres:

“Dear Barack, your visit here is a historic event. We are so happy to receive you and your distinguished delegation. I am very glad to see Secretary John Kerry — an old friend. John, I know you are and I know you will be successful. I’m not sure that the prophets have had speechwriters — (laughter) — but if they had, I imagine Isaiah would have said — but actually he has said on that occasion — and I’m quoting him, “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation.” Well, you have to be satisfied with my language — I cannot speak like him. (Laughter.)

It is my privilege to present you with our country’s highest honor — the Medal of Distinction. This award speaks to you, to your tireless work to make Israel strong, to make peace possible. Your presidency has given the closest ties between Israel and the United States a new height, a sense of intimacy, a vision for the future.

The people of Israel are particularly moved by your unforgettable contribution to their security. You are defending our skies — to you, revelation in the name of intelligence, which is the right way to preempt bloodshed. The diplomatic and the military bonds between us have reached an unprecedented level.

When I visited you in Washington, I thought in my heart, America is so great and we are so small. I learned that you don’t measure us by size, but by values. Thank you. When it comes to values, we are you, and you are us. On occasions when we were alone you stood with us, so we were not alone. We were alone together. We shall never forget it.”

President Obama:

“After slavery and decades in the wilderness and with Moses gone, the future of the Israelites was in doubt. But with Joshua as their guide, they pushed on to victory. After the First Temple was destroyed, it seemed Jerusalem was lost. But with courage and resolve, the Second Temple reestablished the Jewish presence. After centuries of persecution and pogroms, the Shoah aimed to eliminate the entire Jewish people. But the gates of the camps flew open, and there emerged the ultimate rebuke to hate and to ignorance — survivors would live and love again.

When the moment of Israel’s independence was met by aggression on all sides, it was unclear whether this nation would survive. But with heroism and sacrifice, the State of Israel not only endured, but thrived. And during six days in June and Yom Kippur one October, it seemed as though all you had built might be lost. But when the guns fell silent it was clear — “the nation of Israel lives.”

As I said in my speech earlier today, this story — from slavery to salvation, of overcoming even the most overwhelming odds — is a message that’s inspired the world. And that includes Jewish Americans but also African Americans, who have so often had to deal with their own challenges, but with whom you have stood shoulder to shoulder.

African Americans and Jewish Americans marched together at Selma and Montgomery, with rabbis carrying the Torah as they walked. They boarded buses for freedom rides together. They bled together. They gave their lives together — Jewish Americans like Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner alongside African American, James Chaney.

Because of their sacrifice, because of the struggle of generations in both our countries, we can come together tonight, in freedom and in security. So if I can paraphrase the Psalm — they turned our mourning into dancing; they changed our sack cloths into robes of joy.”

Full text: http://1.usa.gov/11lVNpC

Remarks of President Barack Obama to the People of Israel, 3/21/13

“Politically, given the strong bipartisan support for Israel in America, the easiest thing for me to do would be to put this issue aside — just express unconditional support for whatever Israel decides to do — that would be the easiest political path. But I want you to know that I speak to you as a friend who is deeply concerned and committed to your future, and I ask you to consider three points.

First, peace is necessary. (Applause.) I believe that. I believe that peace is the only path to true security. (Applause.) You have the opportunity to be the generation that permanently secures the Zionist dream, or you can face a growing challenge to its future. Given the demographics west of the Jordan River, the only way for Israel to endure and thrive as a Jewish and democratic state is through the realization of an independent and viable Palestine. (Applause.) That is true.

There are other factors involved. Given the frustration in the international community about this conflict, Israel needs to reverse an undertow of isolation. And given the march of technology, the only way to truly protect the Israeli people over the long term is through the absence of war. Because no wall is high enough and no Iron Dome is strong enough or perfect enough to stop every enemy that is intent on doing so from inflicting harm. (Applause.)

And this truth is more pronounced given the changes sweeping the Arab world. I understand that with the uncertainty in the region — people in the streets, changes in leadership, the rise of non-secular parties in politics — it’s tempting to turn inward, because the situation outside of Israel seems so chaotic. But this is precisely the time to respond to the wave of revolution with a resolve and commitment for peace. (Applause.) Because as more governments respond to popular will, the days when Israel could seek peace simply with a handful of autocratic leaders, those days are over. Peace will have to be made among peoples, not just governments. (Applause.)

No one — no single step can change overnight what lies in the hearts and minds of millions. No single step is going to erase years of history and propaganda. But progress with the Palestinians is a powerful way to begin, while sidelining extremists who thrive on conflict and thrive on division. It would make a difference. (Applause.)

So peace is necessary. But peace is also just. Peace is also just. There is no question that Israel has faced Palestinian factions who turned to terror, leaders who missed historic opportunities. That is all true. And that’s why security must be at the center of any agreement. And there is no question that the only path to peace is through negotiations — which is why, despite the criticism we’ve received, the United States will oppose unilateral efforts to bypass negotiations through the United Nations. It has to be done by the parties. (Applause.) But the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination, their right to justice, must also be recognized. (Applause.)

Put yourself in their shoes. Look at the world through their eyes….”

Full text: http://1.usa.gov/14eFvDQ

Remarks by President Obama and President Abbas of the Palestinian Authority in Joint Press Conference, 3/21/13

President Abbas:

“I asserted to His Excellency the President that Palestine has taken long and additional steps for the sake of making peace. I hereby assert again that we are ready to implement all our commitments and obligations, and to respect the signed agreements and international legitimacy resolutions in order to provide for the requirements of launching the peace process and achieving the two-state solution — Palestine and Israel.”

President Obama:

“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.

I want to commend President Abbas and his Prime Minister, Salam Fayyad, for the progress that they’ve made in building the institutions of a Palestinian state. And the United States is a proud partner in these efforts — as the single largest donor of assistance that improves the lives of Palestinians, both in the West Bank and Gaza. As your partner, we salute your achievements and we mourn your losses. We offer condolences, in particular, over the loss of your fellow Palestinians last weekend in the tragic accident in Jordan.

Ramallah is a very different city than the one I visited five years ago. There’s new construction. There’s new businesses, new start-ups, including many high-tech companies, connecting Palestinians to the global economy. The Palestinian Authority is more efficient and more transparent. There are new efforts to combat corruption so entrepreneurs and development can expand. Palestinian security forces are stronger and more professional — serving communities like Bethlehem, where President Abbas and I will visit the Church of the Nativity tomorrow….

I would point out that all this stands in stark contrast to the misery and repression that so many Palestinians continue to confront in Gaza — because Hamas refuses to renounce violence; because Hamas cares more about enforcing its own rigid dogmas than allowing Palestinians to live freely; and because too often it focuses on tearing Israel down rather than building Palestine up. We saw the continuing threat from Gaza again overnight, with the rockets that targeted Sderot. We condemn this violation of the important cease-fire that protects both Israelis and Palestinians — a violation that Hamas has a responsibility to prevent.

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 — investments in peace, which is in all of our interests.”

Full text: http://1.usa.gov/ZArMlI

Remarks by President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel in Joint Press Conference, 3/20/13

President Obama:

“With respect to Syria, the United States continues to work with allies and friends and the Syrian opposition to hasten the end of Assad’s rule, to stop the violence against the Syrian people, and begin a transition toward a new government that respects the rights of all its people.

Assad has lost his legitimacy to lead by attacking the Syrian people with almost every conventional weapon in his arsenal, including Scud missiles. And we have been clear that the use of chemical weapons against the Syrian people would be a serious and tragic mistake. We also share Israel’s grave concern about the transfer of chemical or other weapon systems to terrorists — such as Hezbollah — that might be used against Israel. The Assad regime must understand that they will be held accountable for the use of chemical weapons or their transfer to terrorists.

And finally, we continued our close consultation on Iran. We agree that a nuclear-armed Iran would be a threat to the region, a threat to the world, and potentially an existential threat to Israel. And we agree on our goal. We do not have a policy of containment when it comes to a nuclear Iran. Our policy is to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

We prefer to resolve this diplomatically, and there’s still time to do so. Iran’s leaders must understand, however, that they have to meet their international obligations. And, meanwhile, the international community will continue to increase the pressure on the Iranian government. The United States will continue to consult closely with Israel on next steps. And I will repeat: All options are on the table. We will do what is necessary to prevent Iran from getting the world’s worst weapons.”

Prime Minister Netanyahu:

“I think that people should get to know President Obama the way I’ve gotten to know. And I think you’ve just heard something that is very meaningful. It may have escaped you, but it hasn’t escaped me. And that is the President announced that in addition to all the aid that his administration has provided — including Iron Dome, including defense funding for Israel during very difficult times — he has announced that we are going to begin talks on another 10-year process arrangement to ensure American military assistance to Israel. I think this is very significant.”

Full text: http://1.usa.gov/XqvKuF

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