Israel's success 'depends on independent Palestine,' says Barack Obama

American President criticises Jewish settlements in occupied territories but offers few proposals

Jerusalem

Barack Obama has told Palestinians that the United States is "deeply committed to a sovereign and independent Palestinian state", but he would not press the Israelis into freezing settlement building in the West Bank as a pre-condition to fresh talks between the two sides.

SThe realisation of an independent Palestine is the “only way” for Israel to “endure and thrive”, US President Barack Obama said during an impassioned speech to university students in Jerusalem.  

Speaking on the second day of his state visit, Mr Obama said Israelis must recognise that Jewish settlement activity in occupied territory hinders prospects for peace and that the Palestinians were deserving of their own state, a message that drew huge applause from the audience.

“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 realisation of an independent and viable Palestine,” Mr Obama said.

“It is not fair that a Palestinian child cannot grow up in a state of her own. The Palestinians also deserve justice. Put yourself in their position; see the world through their eyes.”

While his set-piece speech was heartily received, he will leave Israel later today after his three-day visit without any concrete proposals on how to move the peace process forward.

Earlier, Mr Obama told Palestinians that he would not push the Israelis into a new settlement freeze, a move the Palestinians have previously set as a pre-condition to resume talks.

The last peace talks between the two sides came in late 2010 when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed to a freeze on the building of settlements but broke down when he later ordered building to resume.

Instead, during a joint press conference in the Palestinian administrative capital, Ramallah, Mr Obama pressed Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to drop his demand for a freeze on settlements. He said he had told Mr Abbas “that if the expectation is that we can only have direct negotiations when everything is settled ahead of time then there is no point for negotiations”.

But Mr Abbas attacked settlement building – considered illegal under international law – in his response to reporters’ questions. “Everybody considers settlements more than a hurdle toward a two-state solution,” he said. “Settlements are illegal, countless UN resolutions call for end of settlements, we don’t claim anything illegitimate.”

With the Housing Minister, Defence Minister, deputy Defence Minister and likely Foreign Minister in the new Israeli government all themselves settlers, some Palestinians now fear the administration will have a green light to continue building.

Around 150 Palestinian demonstrators gathered in Ramallah to protest against Mr Obama’s visit. Unlike Jerusalem, where there are Stars and Stripes on almost every street in the centre of the city, there are few American flags flying in Ramallah. Demonstrators held up shoes – an insult in Arab culture – and called for Mr Obama to leave Palestine. In Rafah, a city in southern Gaza, which borders Egypt, protesters burnt an effigy of Mr Obama.

Gaza’s Hamas Prime Minister, Ismail Haniyeh, said he does not expect Mr Obama’s visit to change the situation for Palestinians.

Dissenting voices: Obama heckled

Barack Obama was heckled by a man shouting in Hebrew during his address to university students in Jerusalem.

The man was apparently talking about Jonathan Pollard, 58, who is serving a life term in a North Carolina prison after pleading guilty in 1987 to spying for Israel, gathering information during his time as a civilian intelligence officer for the United States Navy.

Israelis have asked successive US presidents to pardon Pollard for decades, with calls increased ahead of Mr Obama’s trip to Israel.

Responding to the heckler, Mr Obama said: “This is part of the lively debate that we talked about... this is good.”

Mr Obama said he “wouldn’t feel comfortable if I didn’t have at least one heckler” but did not address the issue of Pollard’s incarceration.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Voices
News
people
Life and Style
President Obama, one of the more enthusiastic users of the fist bump
science
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode
tv
Life and Style
Upright, everything’s all right (to a point): remaining on one’s feet has its health benefits – though in moderation
HealthIf sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
News
Kristen Stewart and Rupert Sanders were pictured embracing in 2012
people
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Data Governance Manager (Solvency II) – Contract – Up to £450 daily rate, 6 month (may go Permanent)

£350 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently looking...

Recruitment Resourcer

£18000 - £22000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Recruitment Resour...

Sharepoint Technical Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client is a dynamic, fast-growing, fa...

HR Business Analyst, Bristol, £350-400pd

£350 - £400 per day + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is curre...

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried