(JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked President Obama for his speech at the United Nations General Assembly, but the Palestinians criticized the address.
Netanyahu met with Obama at the United Nations on Wednesday afternoon after the president’s speech and reportedly expressed his appreciation for the address. The speech was praised as well by Israel’s hawkish foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman.
“I congratulate President Obama, and I am ready to sign on this speech with both hands,” Lieberman said at a news conference.
Some officials with the Palestine Liberation Organization criticized the president’s speech, which was seen as a rebuke of its effort to seek U.N. recognition of Palestinian statehood.
"Listening to him, you would think it was the Palestinians who occupy Israel," Hanan Ashrawi, a senior member of the PLO delegation in Washington, told Israel’s daily Haaretz. "He presented a double standard when he disassociated the Arabs’ fight for their freedom in the region from the Palestinian freedom fighters, who deal with the occupation for 63 years.
"What we heard is precisely why we are going to the U.N.,” she added, apparently referring to the speech’s expressions of support for the Arab Spring.
The speech was also criticized by the secretary-general of the PLO’s executive committee, Yasser Abed Rabbo.
Nabil Shaath, a senior Palestinian negotiator, said at a news conference that the Palestinians would give the U.N. Security Council time to consider their request for full U.N. membership before taking the matter to the General Assembly. They are expected to submit their request to the Security Council on Friday.
"The U.N. is the only alternative to violence," Shaath said at the news conference, according to reports. "It will be very costly to us and the Israelis. Our new heroes are Gandhi, Mandela and Martin Luther King."
Palestinian protesters, including schoolchildren, denounced Obama during a rally in Ramallah outside the office of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. They waved anti-Obama signs and chanted about their future state. One sign read that Obama is "with killers, occupation and against victims, freedom."
In his U.N. speech, Obama said the differences between Israelis and Palestinians must be bridged through negotiations between the two parties.
“Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the United Nations,” he said.
Obama also noted Israeli suffering from terrorism and said that the “Jewish people have forged a successful state in their historic homeland.” He said that Israel deserves normal relations with its neighbors and called for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The Obama administration has indicated that it would veto any Security Council resolution recognizing Palestinian statehood. The Palestinians, however, would be likely to win a vote in the General Assembly, which would not by itself grant them U.N. membership but could upgrade their status at the world body to a non-member observer state.