Obama urges Israel to reverse ‘undertow of isolation’

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President Barack Obama urged Israel on Thursday to reverse what he said is an “undertow of isolation,” saying the Jewish state has “true partners” in Palestinian leaders Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority president, and Salam Fayyad, the prime minister.

In a speech Thursday in Jerusalem to scores of university students, Obama said peace in the Middle East is necessary because it is the only true path to security. He added that the only way for Israel to endure and thrive in the region as a Jewish and democratic state is through the realization of an independent and viable Palestine.

Given the frustration of the international community, the president said Israel “must reverse an undertow of isolation” to aid the process.

He added that continued settlement activity was “counterproductive” to peace, adding that the Palestinians had a right to self-determination.

He said Israel has “a true partner” in Palestinian President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad.

“Of course, Israel cannot be expected to negotiate with anyone who is dedicated to its destruction. But while I know you have had differences with the Palestinian Authority, I believe that you do have a true partner in President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad,” Obama said.

“Over the last few years, they have built institutions and maintained security on the West Bank in ways that few would have imagined a decade ago. So many Palestinians – including young people – have rejected violence as a means of achieving their aspirations.”

The U.S. president also insisted that now was the time for the Arab world to start normalizing relations with the Jewish state.

“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 will have to be drawn,” Obama said.

Coupling his push for a more conciliatory Israeli approach to the Palestinians with a reaffirmation of his commitment to Israel’s security, Obama also promised that Washington will “do what me must to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran.”