Obama calls for em­brace of peace bid

At the U.N., the pres­i­dent calls on Arab na­tions and Is­rael to do their part.

Los Angeles Times - - Front Page - Christi Par­sons and Paul Richter re­port­ing from the united na­tions cpar­sons@latimes.com paul.richter@latimes.com

At the United Na­tions, he presses Arab coun­tries not to risk fail­ure of the lat­est talks be­tween Pales­tini­ans and Is­raelis.

Pres­i­dent Obama on Thurs­day pushed Arab na­tions to pro­vide more po­lit­i­cal and fi­nan­cial sup­port for the Mid­dle East peace ef­fort, warn­ing that they should not risk the fail­ure of the lat­est ini­tia­tive if they truly seek an in­de­pen­dent Pales­tinian state and sta­bil­ity across the re­gion.

Obama, speak­ing to the United Na­tions Gen­eral Assem­bly, de­plored ef­forts, as­sisted by some Arab and Mus­lim coun­tries, to iso­late or “dele­git­imize” Is­rael.

But Obama also asked for a sac­ri­fice by the Is­raelis, us­ing the U.N. fo­rum to re­new his call for the con­tin­u­a­tion of Is­rael’s freeze on con­struc­tion in dis­puted ar­eas that is set to ex­pire Sept. 26.

“Our po­si­tion on this is­sue is well known,” Obama said. “We be­lieve that the mora­to­rium should be ex­tended. We also be­lieve that talks should press on un­til com­pleted.”

Those who sup­port self­gov­ern­ment of the Pales­tini­ans should help the Pales­tinian Author­ity by giv­ing po­lit­i­cal and fi­nan­cial sup­port to build the in­sti­tu­tions of their state, Obama said. Com­pro­mise will be hard, he said, but it is bet­ter than the al­ter­na­tive.

“If an agree­ment is not reached, Pales­tini­ans will never know the pride and dig­nity that comes with their own state,” Obama said. “Is­raelis will never know the cer­tainty and se­cu­rity that comes with sov­er­eign and sta­ble neigh­bors who are com­mit­ted to co­ex­is­tence.”

Pales­tinian Author­ity Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ab­bas was present in the cham­ber for Obama’s speech, but Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu did not come to New York for the assem­bly.

The re­marks came in a speech in which Obama spoke broadly of the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity’s shared re­spon­si­bil­ity to sup­port democ­racy and hu­man rights, and he called upon world lead­ers not to “stand idly by” as dis­si­dents are im­pris­oned and pro­test­ers are beaten.

He praised his ad­min­is­tra­tion’s at­tempts to fight threats from ex­trem­ists with­out de­ploy­ing large Amer­i­can armies, obliquely re­fer­ring to a sweep­ing strat­egy that in­cludes col­lab­o­ra­tion with for­eign gov­ern­ments and strikes by un­manned air­craft against ter­ror­ist tar­gets. The ad­min­is­tra­tion does not pub­licly dis­cuss the drone pro­gram.

Obama’s ap­peal to Arab lead­ers comes at a time when it ap­pears that the 3-week-old U.S.-led Mideast peace ini­tia­tive could col­lapse over the is­sue of the mora­to­rium. Lead­ers of the Pales­tinian Author­ity have threat­ened to aban­don the ne­go­ti­a­tions if the mora­to­rium is al­lowed to ex­pire.

As that is­sue sim­mers, the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion has been try­ing to build sup­port in the Arab world for the peace talks. With­out it, the weak Pales­tinian Author­ity lead­er­ship may not have the stature to make risky and un­pop­u­lar com­pro­mises with the Is­raelis.

Obama is press­ing for co­op­er­a­tion on a range of se­cu­rity and eco­nomic mat­ters dur­ing his three days at the United Na­tions.

A con­stant in all of Obama’s one-on-one meet­ings with world lead­ers this week is the push to cur­tail the Ira­nian nu­clear pro­gram, and in his speech the pres­i­dent again called on Tehran to con­firm the “peace­ful in­tent” of its nu­clear am­bi­tions.

But no sin­gle is­sue seemed more im­por­tant to Obama this week than peace in the Mideast, an ini­tia­tive in which he has in­vested plenty of his per­sonal and po­lit­i­cal cap­i­tal.

In his sec­ond ad­dress to the full assem­bly since tak­ing of­fice, Obama de­voted nearly a third of his time to the peace process, urg­ing not just the prin­ci­pals to com­pro­mise but also their neigh­bors through­out the re­gion and be­yond.

By dwelling so much on the Arab-Is­raeli con­flict, Obama prob­a­bly raised ex­pec­ta­tions about peace prospects, said Aaron David Miller, a for­mer Mideast peace negotiator now at the Woodrow Wil­son In­ter­na­tional Cen­ter for Schol­ars.

“With lan­guage like, ‘I refuse to ac­cept that al­ter­na­tive,’ Obama has also placed pres­sure not just on Ab­bas and Ne­tanyahu, but on him­self,” Miller said. “That’s some­times un­wise.”

Hours af­ter Obama’s ap­pear­ance, the U.S. del­e­ga­tion walked out of a speech by Ira­nian Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ah­madine­jad af­ter he sug­gested that the U.S. govern­ment may have car­ried out the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to en­sure Is­rael’s sur­vival.

Ah­madine­jad said there were three the­o­ries about how the attacks hap­pened.

One was that a “pow­er­ful and com­plex ter­ror­ist group” had ex­e­cuted them. An­other was that “some seg­ments within the U.S. govern­ment or­ches­trated the at­tack to re­verse the de­clin­ing Amer­i­can econ­omy and its grips on the Mid­dle East … in or­der also to save the Zion­ist regime.”

A third, he said, was that a ter­ror­ist group had car­ried out the attacks, but that the U.S. govern­ment sup­ported it and took ad­van­tage of the devel­op­ment.

Two U.S. of­fi­cials lis­ten­ing to the speech rose af­ter the sec­ond the­ory and walked out of the room, trailed by di­plo­mats from some al­lied coun­tries.

Em­manuel Dunand

MAK­ING HIS CASE: Pres­i­dent Obama at the U.N. this week. He is press­ing for co­op­er­a­tion on se­cu­rity and eco­nomic is­sues dur­ing his three-day visit.

Stan Honda

OUT­SIDE THE U.N.: A sup­porter of the po­lit­i­cal op­po­si­tion in Iran.

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