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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll as Agnes Brown in the 2014 Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special
tvCould Mrs Brown's Boys have taken lead for second year?
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
news
Sport
Chelsea midfielder Cesc Fabregas
footballChelsea vs West Ham live kicks off coverage of all 10 of Boxing Day matches
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Arts and Entertainment
Madonna is not in Twitter's good books after describing her album leak as 'artistic rape and terrorism'
music14 more 'Rebel Heart' tracks leaked including Pharrell Williams collaboration
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
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

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

£70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all