“It is not just when settler violence against Palestinians goes unpunished,”
Mr Obama said. “It is not right to prevent Palestinians from farming their
lands; to restrict a student’s ability to move around the West Bank; or to
displace Palestinian families from their home.

“Neither occupation nor expulsion is the answer. Just as Israelis built a
state in their homeland, Palestinians have a right to be a free people in
their own land.”

Citing the bilateral support for Israel in the US Congress, Mr Obama said it
would be politically more convenient for him to ignore the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

But he believed in speaking the truth to friends, he said. And peace was
necessary to safeguard Israel’s future as a democratic and Jewish state as
well as in meeting Palestinian aspirations. It was also possible — although
he admitted it was not guaranteed and entailed risks.

It would mean abandoning settlement building and giving up dreams of
establishing a Greater Israel on lands once inhabited by Jewish people in
biblical times. Quoting the former Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon, the
president said: “It is impossible to have a Jewish, democratic state and at
the same time to control all of Eretz Israel. If we insist on fulfilling the
dream in its entirety, we are liable to lose it all.

“Given the demographics west of the Jordan River, the only way for Israel to
endure and thrive as a Jewish and democratic state is through the
recognition of an independent and viable Palestine,” he added to
surprisingly loud applause.

Mr Obama’s eloquent call for peace contrasted with a stumbling performance
earlier in a press conference in Ramallah with Mahmoud Abbas, the
Palestinian leader, when he appeared unsure over how to address Israel’s
continued settlement expansion.

It was all the more striking for having been preceded by a long declaration of
unstinting loyalty to America’s alliance with Israel. Invoking sources
ranging from Martin Luther King to David-Ben Gurion, Israel’s founding prime
minister, Mr Obama professed a deep belief in the legitimacy of the Zionist
dream of a Jewish ancestral homeland.

Those rejecting Israel’s right to exist “might as well reject the earth
beneath them and the sky above”, he said. “Israel is not going anywhere”.

As if to reassure wavering doubters, he stated his willingness to stop Iran
building a nuclear bomb — a prime concern of Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s
prime minister. “America will do what we must to prevent a nuclear-armed
Iran.”

As if to reinforce Israeli fears, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme
leader, threatened, in a speech marking the Iranian new year, to “raze Tel
Aviv and Haifa to the ground” if Israel attacked the Islamic regime’s
nuclear installations.

There was mixed reaction to Mr Obama’s speech among audience members. Noam
Eliahu, 25, a technology student at Haifa university, said she was
“inspired”. But Dani Dayan, a former leader of the Settlers Council, accused
Mr Obama of offering a “utopia” with no idea of how to get there.

Impassioned Barack Obama’s direct appeal to Israeli citizens for peace – Telegraph.co.uk
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