March 21, 2013 -- Speaking before a young Israeli audience in Jerusalem, President Obama today delivered an impassioned plea for Israelis and Palestinians to reach a peaceful two-state solution while he affirmed the "unbreakable bonds of friendship" between the United States and Israel.
"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," President Obama said at the Jerusalem Convention Center. "Peace is necessary, but peace is also just.
"... Palestinians must recognize that Israel will be a Jewish state, and that Israelis have the right to insist upon their security. Israelis must recognize that continued settlement activity is counterproductive to the cause of peace, and that an independent Palestine must be viable, that real borders have to be drawn."
The president asked Israelis to consider the Palestinians' "right to self-determination and justice" as they work toward a peaceful solution.
"Put yourself in their shoes, look at the world through their eyes," the president said. "It is not fair that a Palestinian child cannot grow up in a state of her own, and lives with the presence of a foreign army that controls the movements of her parents every single day. It is not just when settler violence against Palestinians goes unpunished."
Israeli President Shimon Peres presented Obama with the presidential medal of distinction in a ceremony this evening where he lauded the president's push for peace.
"Your call to reopen the peace process may pave the way for the implementation of the two-state solution agreed by all of us. As you said, a Jewish state Israel, an Arab state Palestine," Peres said at the president's residence in Jerusalem. "Dear friends, I have seen in my life, I earned the right to believe that peace is attainable. As you felt today, I know this is the deep conviction of our peoples. With our resolve and your support, dear Barack Obama, we shall win and it will happen."
Prior to his speech, Obama spent the morning in the occupied West Bank, meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and other political leaders who are frustrated with the frozen peace process.
Speaking at a joint news conference with Abbas in Ramallah, Obama vowed that the United States will remain "deeply committed to the creation of an independent sovereign state of Palestine" and as part of a two-state solution.
"We cannot give up," he said. "We cannot give up on the search for peace, no matter how hard it is.
But there is little hope here that the Obama administration will be able to jumpstart the peace process.
"The people of Palestine, Mr. President, who receive you today aspire to attain the simplest rights," Abbas said. "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.
"We, Mr. President, believe that peace is necessary and inevitable, and we also believe that it is possible," Abbas continued.