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Obama at U.N.: Don’t delegitimize Israel

WASHINGTON (JTA) — President Obama said he would not countenance Israel’s delegitimization and called on the world community to back Israeli-Palestinian peace with deeds and not just words.

"Many in this hall count themselves as friends of the Palestinians, but these pledges must now be supported by deeds," President Obama said Sept. 23, addressing the opening of the United Nations General Assembly session.

"Those who have signed on to the Arab Peace Initiative should seize this opportunity to make it real by taking tangible steps toward the normalization that it promises Israel," he said, referring to the 2003 Saudi-sponsored plan that would offer Israel comprehensive peace in return for its withdrawal to 1967 borders.

"Those who speak out for Palestinian self-government should help the Palestinian Authority politically and financially, and in so doing, help the Palestinians build the institutions of their state. And those who long to see an independent Palestine rise must stop trying to tear Israel down."

The Obama administration has made increased Arab support for the peace process a central plank of its efforts to arrive at a deal within a year. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has been making the case in one-on-one meetings with Arab leaders at the U.N.’s annual signature event.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that efforts to delegitimize Israel are a major obstacle to peace, and Obama made it clear that he adopted this view.

"After 60 years in the community of nations, Israel’s existence must not be a subject for debate," he said. "Israel is a sovereign state and the historic homeland of the Jewish people. It should be clear to all that efforts to chip away at Israel’s legitimacy will only be met by the unshakeable opposition of the United States."

Obama praised the courage of Netanyahu and Abbas, devoting a third of his prepared speech to the topic.

He repeated a call on Netanyahu to extend beyond next week the 10-month partial settlement freeze that helped bring Abbas to the talks.

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