Obama outlines U.S. hopes for Mideast peace

(Editor’s note: President Barack Obama spoke in Cairo, Egypt, Thursday, offering friendship and cooperation to the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims and stating America’s position on peace in the Middle East and the proliferation of nuclear weapons. His comments on a path to peace between Israel and Palestine are reprinted below, edited slightly to fit the space available.)
“ ... The second major source of tension that we need to discuss is the situation between Israelis, Palestinians and the Arab world.
“America’s strong bonds with Israel are well known. This bond is unbreakable. It is based upon cultural and historical ties, and the recognition that the aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied.
“Around the world, the Jewish people were persecuted for centuries, and anti-Semitism in Europe culminated in an unprecedented Holocaust. ... Six million Jews were killed — more than the entire Jewish population of Israel today. Denying that fact is baseless, ignorant, and hateful.
“... On the other hand, it is also undeniable that the Palestinian people —Muslims and Christians — have suffered in pursuit of a homeland. ... Many wait in refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza, and neighboring lands for a life of peace and security that they have never been able to lead. ... So let there be no doubt: the situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable. America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own.
“For decades, there has been a stalemate: two peoples with legitimate aspirations, each with a painful history that makes compromise elusive. ... But if we see this conflict only from one side or the other, then we will be blind to the truth: the only resolution is for the aspirations of both sides to be met through two states, where Israelis and Palestinians each live in peace and security.
“That is in Israel’s interest, Palestine’s in-terest, America’s interest, and the world’s interest. That is why I intend to personally pursue this outcome with all the patience that the task requires. ...
“Palestinians must abandon violence. Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and does not succeed. ... violence is a dead end. It is a sign of neither courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus. That is not how moral authority is claimed; that is how it is surrendered.
“Now is the time for Palestinians to focus on what they can build. The Palestinian Authority must develop its capacity to govern, with institutions that serve the needs of its people. Hamas ... must put an end to violence, recognize past agreements, and recognize Israel’s right to exist.
“At the same time, Israelis must acknowledge that just as Israel’s right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestine’s. The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop.
“Israel must also live up to its obligations to ensure that Palestinians can live, and work, and develop their society. And just as it devastates Palestinian families, the continuing humanitarian crisis in Gaza does not serve Israel’s security ... Progress in the daily lives of the Palestinian people must be part of a road to peace, and Israel must take concrete steps to enable such progress.
“Finally, ... the Arab-Israeli conflict should no longer be used to distract the people of Arab nations from other problems. Instead, it must be a cause for action to help the Palestinian people develop the institutions that will sustain their state; to recognize Is-rael’s legitimacy; and to choose progress over a self-defeating focus on the past.
“America will align our policies with those who pursue peace, and say in public what we say in private to Israelis and Palestinians and Arabs. We cannot impose peace. But privately, many Muslims recognize that Israel will not go away. Likewise, many Israelis recognize the need for a Palestinian state. It is time for us to act on what everyone knows to be true.
“Too many tears have flowed. Too much blood has been shed. All of us have a responsibility to work for the day when the mothers of Israelis and Palestinians can see their children grow up without fear; when the Holy Land of three great faiths is the place of peace that God intended it to be; when Jerusalem is a secure and lasting home for Jews and Christians and Muslims, and a place for all of the children of Abraham to mingle peacefully to-gether as in the story of Isra, when Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed (peace be upon them) joined in prayer.”