Press Release
March 21, 2013 - 12:00am


Washington DC, March 21 -- The American Task Force on Palestine (ATFP) warmly welcomed President Barack Obama's historic speech to the people of Israel and the broader Middle East region delivered in Jerusalem today. The President reassured the Israeli people of the "unbreakable bonds of friendship" between their country and the United States, and emphasized the American commitment to their security. He praised Israel's achievements, prosperity, and "thriving democracy." However, he issued significant challenges to Israeli society about its vision for its own future and that of the Palestinian people, and to the Palestinian people and the rest of the Arab world about their relationship with Israel.

President Obama noted that, "Politically, given the strong bipartisan support for Israel in America, the easiest thing for me to do would be to put this issue aside, and express unconditional support for whatever Israel decides to do." But, he continued, he nonetheless wanted to make three crucial points.

First, he insisted that "peace is necessary" and "is the only path to true security." The President told the audience that "the only way for Israel to endure and thrive as a Jewish and democratic state is through the realization of an independent and viable Palestine," and he warned that defense technology is no substitute for peace.

Second, President Obama insisted that, "peace is just" and "the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination and justice must also be recognized." He asked the Israeli people to put themselves in the Palestinians' shoes and "look at the world through their eyes." "Neither occupation nor expulsion is the answer," President Obama insisted, declaring that, "Palestinians have a right to be a free people in their own land." "I believe that you do have a true partner in President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad," he told his Israeli audience, citing institution-building and security enforcement in the West Bank as tangible achievements demonstrating this.

Third, he asserted his conviction that "peace is possible." He called on "the Arab World to take steps toward normalized relations with Israel," and on the Palestinians to recognize that "Israel will be a Jewish state." But, he insisted, "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."

President Obama urged the peoples of the region to press their leaders for progress on peace, saying they "will not take risks if the people do not demand that they do. You must create the change that you want to see." He also cited prosperity as a key factor for securing the future for Israel, the Palestinians and the rest of the Middle East, declaring, "I believe that all of that potential for prosperity can be enhanced with greater security, and a lasting peace."

ATFP President Ziad J. Asali noted, "In this historic speech, President Obama both reassured and challenged Israelis and Palestinians. He reiterated the necessity for, and the vital American national security interest in, peace. And he reaffirmed to the Palestinian people that their quest for independence and statehood remains central to the American foreign policy agenda." Dr. Asali said, "President Obama's speech opens horizons for security, peace and prosperity across the region." He added that, "What President Obama has issued is a momentous challenge to the Israeli and Palestinian peoples to find ways to work together to translate this vision of peace and prosperity into a reality, and create a future based on security, freedom and prosperity. Having been reassured by President Obama of the full support of the United States, it is up to people of courage on all sides to work to realize the President's vision. And it is up to the friends and supporters of Israel and Palestine in the United States and around the world to play their part in bringing this vision to reality."


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017