Security is paramount, Obama tells Israel

Barack Obama repeatedly promised Israel's leaders yesterday that its security would remain "paramount" while he promoted efforts to resolve their conflict with the Palestinians early in his first term if elected.

The Democratic nominee went out of his way to reassure Israelis and Jewish voters in the US that an Obama presidency would even strengthen "the historic and special relationship" between the two countries – "one that cannot be broken".

Mr Obama also sought to allay Israeli anxieties about his willingness to meet Iranian leaders if he thought it would serve US interests. A nuclear Iran would be a "game-changing situation" that "would pose a grave threat, and the world must prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon," he said.

Standing in front of a symbolic display of exploded Qassam rockets at the police station in Sderot, which has borne the brunt of attacks from Gaza, Mr Obama declared: "America must always stand up for Israel's right to defend itself against those who threaten its people"

Mr Obama was frank in a CBS interview earlier about partly using his 24-hour trip to Israel – punctuated by an hour-long visit to Ramallah for talks with the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas – to counterbalance support among Israelis for his rival John McCain by making clear his own "abiding commitment" to Israel's security.

But while reassuring top Israeli ministers – and the right-wing opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu – that he would never pressure Israel to make a deal with the Palestinians that compromised its security, he left himself room for an active role in the negotiating process.

He added: "What is also true is that I believe that it is strongly in the interest of Israel's security to arrive at a lasting peace with the Palestinian people. I don't think those positions are contradictory. I think they are complementary."

And while insisting that the US could not "dictate" terms to the parties, he made clear – in an unspoken contrast with both Presidents Clinton and George W Bush – that he would not wait "until a few years into my term or my second term... in order to get the process moving." Adding that there was a "window right now that needs to be taken advantage of" because of willingness for a deal in the Palestinian leadership and the Israeli public, he warned: "I also think there's a population on both sides that is becoming increasingly frustrated with the lack of progress, and where there's hopelessness and despair, that can often turn in a bad direction." He said it would be "hard" to negotiate with Hamas while it rejected Israel and espoused attacks on its citizens.

Having alarmed Palestinians by his earlier declaration – which he then all but retracted – that Jerusalem would be the "undivided" capital of Israel, he yesterday made clear that the future of the city, which Palestinian negotiators insist must also be their capital, was a matter for discussion between the two sides.

Kadoura Fares, a senior Fatah figure in the West Bank, still complained that the "correction" was not enough. And a Hamas spokesman, Fawzi Barhoum, complained that the candidate "wants to go to the White House through Tel Aviv, at the expense of the Palestinians".

That charge is unlikely to worry the Obama campaign, which was thrown on to the defensive after another Hamas official, Ahmed Yousef, said earlier this year that he hoped the senator would win the presidential election. Signing the visitor's book at the Yad Vashem holocaust memorial museum earlier in the day, the senator wrote: "At a time of great peril and torment, war and strife, we are blessed to have such a powerful reminder of man's potential for great evil, but also our capacity to rise up from tragedy and remake our world."

News
The surrealist comedian at the Q Awards in 2010
people
News
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Sport
Christiano Ronaldo enjoys his opening goal
champions leagueLiverpool 0 Real Madrid 3: Ronaldo and Benzema run Reds ragged to avenge thrashing from their last visit to Anfield
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Six of the 76 Goats' cheese samples contained a significant amount of sheep's cheese
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to American media group
Extras
indybest
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Nicholas Serota has been a feature in the Power 100 top ten since its 2002 launch
art
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidate on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
News
Call me Superman: one of many unusual names chosen by Chinese students
newsChinese state TV offers advice for citizens picking a Western moniker
News
Wilko Johnson is currently on his farewell tour
people
Voices
New look: Zellweger at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
voicesRenée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity, says Amanda Hess
News
Let’s pretend: KidZania in Tokyo
educationKidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day
Life and Style
CHARGE BOOSTER: Aeroplane mode doesn't sound very exciting, but it can be a (phone) hacker's friend. Turning on the option while charging your mobile will increase the speed at which your phone battery charges
techNew book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone
Arts and Entertainment
Julianne Moore and Ellen Page are starring together in civil rights drama Freeheld
film
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

Solutions Architect - Permanent - London - £70k DOE

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

General Cover Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: Great opportunities for Cover...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: QTS Maths Teachers needed for...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: QTS Maths Teachers needed for...

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?