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President Obama's Speech to the UN General Assembly

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The White House

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Office of the Press Secretary

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For Immediate Release
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September 21, 2011
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Remarks by President Obama in Address to the United Nations General Assembly

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United Nations
New York, New York

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10:12 A.M. EDT

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PRESIDENT OBAMA: Mr. President, Mr. Secretary General, fellow delegates, ladies and gentlemen: It is a great honor for me to be here today. I would like to talk to you about a subject that is at the heart of the United Nations -- the pursuit of peace in an imperfect world.
 
War and conflict have been with us since the beginning of civilizations.
But in the first part of the 20th century, the advance of modern weaponry led to death on a staggering scale. It was this killing that compelled the founders of this body to build an institution that was focused not just on ending one war, but on averting others; a union of sovereign states that would seek to prevent conflict, while also addressing its causes.
 
No American did more to pursue this objective than President Franklin Roosevelt.
He knew that a victory in war was not enough. As he said at one of the very first meetings on the founding of the United Nations, “We have got to make, not merely peace, but a peace that will last.”
 
The men and women who built this institution understood that peace is more than just the absence of war.
A lasting peace -- for nations and for individuals -- depends on a sense of justice and opportunity, of dignity and freedom. It depends on struggle and sacrifice, on compromise, and on a sense of common humanity.
 
One delegate to the San Francisco Conference that led to the creation of the United Nations put it well: “Many people,” she said, “have talked as if all that has to be done to get peace was to say loudly and frequently that we loved peace and we hated war.
Now we have learned that no matter how much we love peace and hate war, we cannot avoid having war brought upon us if there are convulsions in other parts of the world.”
 
The fact is peace is hard.
But our people demand it. Over nearly seven decades, even as the United Nations helped avert a third world war, we still live in a world scarred by conflict and plagued by poverty. Even as we proclaim our love for peace and our hatred of war, there are still convulsions in our world that endanger us all.
 
I took office at a time of two wars for the United States.
Moreover, the violent extremists who drew us into war in the first place -- Osama bin Laden, and his al Qaeda organization -- remained at large. Today, we've set a new direction.
 
At the end of this year, America’s military operation in Iraq will be over.
We will have a normal relationship with a sovereign nation that is a member of the community of nations. That equal partnership will be strengthened by our support for Iraq -- for its government and for its security forces, for its people and for their aspirations.
 
As we end the war in Iraq, the United States and our coalition partners have begun a transition in Afghanistan.
Between now and 2014, an increasingly capable Afghan government and security forces will step forward to take responsibility for the future of their country. As they do, we are drawing down our own forces, while building an enduring partnership with the Afghan people.
 
So let there be no doubt: The tide of war is receding.
When I took office, roughly 180,000 Americans were serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. By the end of this year, that number will be cut in half, and it will continue to decline. This is critical for the sovereignty of Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s also critical to the strength of the United States as we build our nation at home.

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Oct 1
The Daily Beast Quoted (Oct 01 2011 1:22AM) : After praising "the heart of the UN" as "the pursuit of peace in an imperfect world," he announced that he already achieved surprising progress toward that goal. more

In other words, the commander in chief suggests that the presence of American troops previously stood in the way of Afghan and Iraqi sovereignty, and that the most important step to safeguarding that precious sovereignty is the continued withdrawal of U.S. forces. He seems to embrace the toxic, anti-American view that “occupation” by the United States represents the chief cause of both bloody conflicts. This concept of the current conflicts ignores a history of two decades of devastating Afghan civil war, as well as Saddam Hussein’s well-documented slaughter of his own citizens and attacks on four different neighboring states, long before American troops entered either country.

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Oct 1
Fox News Quoted (Oct 01 2011 1:44AM) : He offered no support for this claim because there is none more

During the Cold War the U.N. was of limited use for the same reason it is today: the preponderance of corrupt and repressive governments among its members.

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Oct 1
Fox News Quoted (Oct 01 2011 1:46AM) : Of course, no Obama speech on foreign policy would be complete without a repudiation of the president who preceded him more

He spoke of a “new direction” in U.S. foreign policy, specifically mentioning the withdrawal of our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. He repeated the now-disproved line that “the tide of war is receding.” This basically amounted to fishing for approval from the audience at the U.N., who always saw George W. Bush as terribly uncouth and much prefer an American president inclined to apologize for his nation.

Ultimately, the speech was the essence of “leading from behind.” Friends and foes of the United States were treated to an inspirational speaker, not merely reprising the language of hope and change, but also promising a diffident America, confused with its enemies and allies, and committed to the lie that the United Nations is useful for much other than harming American interests.

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Oct 1
The Daily Beast Quoted (Oct 01 2011 1:23AM) : If “the tide of war” is indeed “receding” in Iraq it’s because President Bush sent more troops to the fray and not because Barack Obama brought them home more

The notion that the ongoing withdrawal of our forces means that peace at last has come to Afghanistan also ignores the daily evidence of ongoing butchery and terror, even in the purportedly secure segments of Kabul. Despite President Obama’s self-congratulatory conflation of declining troop levels with rising prospects for peace, many Afghans, as well as some of the commanders charged with executing his policies, believe that reducing U.S. strength will mean more, not less danger for the country and its sovereignty.

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Moreover, we are poised to end these wars from a position of strength. Ten years ago, there was an open wound and twisted steel, a broken heart in the center of this city. Today, as a new tower is rising at Ground Zero, it symbolizes New York’s renewal, even as al Qaeda is under more pressure than ever before. Its leadership has been degraded. And Osama bin Laden, a man who murdered thousands of people from dozens of countries, will never endanger the peace of the world again.
 
So, yes, this has been a difficult decade.
But today, we stand at a crossroads of history with the chance to move decisively in the direction of peace. To do so, we must return to the wisdom of those who created this institution. The United Nations’ Founding Charter calls upon us, “to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security.” And Article 1 of this General Assembly’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights reminds us that, “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and in rights.” Those bedrock beliefs -- in the responsibility of states, and the rights of men and women -- must be our guide.
 
And in that effort, we have reason to hope.
This year has been a time of extraordinary transformation. More nations have stepped forward to maintain international peace and security. And more individuals are claiming their universal right to live in freedom and dignity.
 
Think about it: One year ago, when we met here in New York, the prospect of a successful referendum in South Sudan was in doubt.
But the international community overcame old divisions to support the agreement that had been negotiated to give South Sudan self-determination. And last summer, as a new flag went up in Juba, former soldiers laid down their arms, men and women wept with joy, and children finally knew the promise of looking to a future that they will shape.
 
One year ago, the people of Côte D’Ivoire approached a landmark election.
And when the incumbent lost, and refused to respect the results, the world refused to look the other way. U.N. peacekeepers were harassed, but they did not leave their posts. The Security Council, led by the United States and Nigeria and France, came together to support the will of the people. And Côte D’Ivoire is now governed by the man who was elected to lead.

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One year ago, the hopes of the people of Tunisia were suppressed. But they chose the dignity of peaceful protest over the rule of an iron fist. A vendor lit a spark that took his own life, but he ignited a movement. In a face of a crackdown, students spelled out the word, "freedom." The balance of fear shifted from the ruler to those that he ruled. And now the people of Tunisia are preparing for elections that will move them one step closer to the democracy that they deserve.
 
One year ago, Egypt had known one President for nearly 30 years.
But for 18 days, the eyes of the world were glued to Tahrir Square, where Egyptians from all walks of life -- men and women, young and old, Muslim and Christian -- demanded their universal rights. We saw in those protesters the moral force of non-violence that has lit the world from Delhi to Warsaw, from Selma to South Africa -- and we knew that change had come to Egypt and to the Arab world.

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One year ago, the people of Libya were ruled by the world’s longest-serving dictator. But faced with bullets and bombs and a dictator who threatened to hunt them down like rats, they showed relentless bravery. We will never forget the words of the Libyan who stood up in those early days of the revolution and said, “Our words are free now.” It’s a feeling you can’t explain. Day after day, in the face of bullets and bombs, the Libyan people refused to give back that freedom. And when they were threatened by the kind of mass atrocity that often went unchallenged in the last century, the United Nations lived up to its charter. The Security Council authorized all necessary measures to prevent a massacre. The Arab League called for this effort; Arab nations joined a NATO-led coalition that halted Qaddafi’s forces in their tracks.

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In the months that followed, the will of the coalition proved unbreakable, and the will of the Libyan people could not be denied. Forty-two years of tyranny was ended in six months. From Tripoli to Misurata to Benghazi -- today, Libya is free. Yesterday, the leaders of a new Libya took their rightful place beside us, and this week, the United States is reopening our embassy in Tripoli.

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This is how the international community is supposed to work -- nations standing together for the sake of peace and security, and individuals claiming their rights. Now, all of us have a responsibility to support the new Libya -- the new Libyan government as they confront the challenge of turning this moment of promise into a just and lasting peace for all Libyans.
 
So this has been a remarkable year.
The Qaddafi regime is over. Gbagbo, Ben Ali, Mubarak are no longer in power. Osama bin Laden is gone, and the idea that change could only come through violence has been buried with him. Something is happening in our world. The way things have been is not the way that they will be. The humiliating grip of corruption and tyranny is being pried open. Dictators are on notice. Technology is putting power into the hands of the people. The youth are delivering a powerful rebuke to dictatorship, and rejecting the lie that some races, some peoples, some religions, some ethnicities do not desire democracy. The promise written down on paper -- “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights” -- is closer at hand.
 
But let us remember: Peace is hard.
Peace is hard. Progress can be reversed. Prosperity comes slowly. Societies can split apart. The measure of our success must be whether people can live in sustained freedom, dignity, and security. And the United Nations and its member states must do their part to support those basic aspirations. And we have more work to do.
 
In Iran, we've seen a government that refuses to recognize the rights of its own people.
As we meet here today, men and women and children are being tortured, detained and murdered by the Syrian regime. Thousands have been killed, many during the holy time of Ramadan. Thousands more have poured across Syria’s borders. The Syrian people have shown dignity and courage in their pursuit of justice -- protesting peacefully, standing silently in the streets, dying for the same values that this institution is supposed to stand for. And the question for us is clear: Will we stand with the Syrian people, or with their oppressors?
 
Already, the United States has imposed strong sanctions on Syria’s leaders.
We supported a transfer of power that is responsive to the Syrian people. And many of our allies have joined in this effort. But for the sake of Syria -- and the peace and security of the world -- we must speak with one voice. There's no excuse for inaction. Now is the time for the United Nations Security Council to sanction the Syrian regime, and to stand with the Syrian people.
 
Throughout the region, we will have to respond to the calls for change.
In Yemen, men, women and children gather by the thousands in towns and city squares every day with the hope that their determination and spilled blood will prevail over a corrupt system. America supports those aspirations. We must work with Yemen’s neighbors and our partners around the world to seek a path that allows for a peaceful transition of power from President Saleh, and a movement to free and fair elections as soon as possible.

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Oct 1
The Daily Beast Quoted (Oct 01 2011 1:25AM) : Immediately after declaring that “the idea that change could only come through violence” had been buried with bin Laden, he deployed what his admirers love to describe as “soaring rhetoric” to describe the new era of peace. more

“Something is happening in our world,” he purred in almost reverent tones. “The way things have been is not the way they will be. The humiliating grip of corruption and tyranny is being pried open … The promise written down on paper ‘all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights’—is closer at hand.”

Does the president ever read the newspapers? (Katie Couric asked Sarah Palin that question, but no one would dare to ask Barack Obama). Does he check the latest dispatches from Somalia, Syria, Yemen, Pakistan, Iran, Sudan, North Korea, Cuba—not to mention the Peoples Republic of China, the most populous dictatorship on earth?
Even if the cause of human rights has arguably advanced in recent years, wouldn’t it count as a wildly premature overstatement to proclaim that reliance on violence is dead and buried and that “the way things have been is not the way they will be”?

How could a savvy statesman offer such questionable assertions in the most visible forum on earth, exposing himself (and, more importantly, his nation) to worldwide mockery?

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Oct 1
The Daily Beast Quoted (Oct 01 2011 1:24AM) : Does the president honestly believe that the brilliantly successful (and deadly) mission by Seal Team Six to eliminate bin Laden represented the triumph of nonviolence? more

Did NATO remove the durable Gaddafi dictatorship by means of hunger strikes, appeals to conscience, and peaceful demonstrations or through more than 7,000 high-tech bombing sorties?
Meanwhile, the inclusion of the name of Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak on a list of monsters that features America-hating, terror-supporting Islamist fanatics like bin Laden and Gaddafi amounts to a gross, even slanderous distortion of history. No one could describe Mubarak as a candidate for sainthood, but for more than 30 years he loyally (if imperfectly) defended American interests in the most dangerous region on earth. The people of Egypt may (or may not) fare better after the collapse of his regime, but there’s scant reason to believe that this collapse somehow advanced the cause of peace. Does the violent mob assault on Israel’s Egyptian embassy illustrate President Obama’s idea of “the tide of war receding”?

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Oct 1
Fox News Quoted (Oct 01 2011 1:45AM) : There are two problems with this stunning claim more

First, there are plenty of people in the world who do think violence is best way to effect change—preferably violence directed at the USA and our allies. Some of the them run governments; some of them run terrorist organizations. Here we are seeing the naive assumption of President Obama and his aides that the defeat of al Qaeda will take the world back to before 9/11. Unfortunately, the threats we face are greater than one terrorist group.

Second, the implication that bin Laden was just someone who thought “change could come only through violence” is stunning. It implies that we have no beef with the change bin Laden wanted or his vision for an enslaved humanity. We merely took issue with his choice of means because they were violent.

Is this parsing Mr. Obama’s words too literally? Not when you consider that the president is a lawyer, likely to be careful with word choice, and that his speech was reviewed by dozens of top officials before its delivery.

In fact, Mr. Obama and the liberals who populate his administration still choose not to understand Islamism and the motivations of our adversaries. This statement appears to be a too-clever-by-half attempt to conflate what bin Laden wanted and the desires of those who take to the streets in the Middle East today. In addition to being another incorrect read of the Arab Spring, this sends a powerful signal of appeasement to those who wish to advance the Islamist vision.

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In Bahrain, steps have been taken toward reform and accountability. We’re pleased with that, but more is required. America is a close friend of Bahrain, and we will continue to call on the government and the main opposition bloc -- the Wifaq -- to pursue a meaningful dialogue that brings peaceful change that is responsive to the people. We believe the patriotism that binds Bahrainis together must be more powerful than the sectarian forces that would tear them apart. It will be hard, but it is possible.
 
We believe that each nation must chart its own course to fulfill the aspirations of its people, and America does not expect to agree with every party or person who expresses themselves politically.
But we will always stand up for the universal rights that were embraced by this Assembly. Those rights depend on elections that are free and fair; on governance that is transparent and accountable; respect for the rights of women and minorities; justice that is equal and fair. That is what our people deserve. Those are the elements of peace that can last.
 
Moreover, the United States will continue to support those nations that transition to democracy -- with greater trade and investment -- so that freedom is followed by opportunity.
We will pursue a deeper engagement with governments, but also with civil society -- students and entrepreneurs, political parties and the press. We have banned those who abuse human rights from traveling to our country. And we’ve sanctioned those who trample on human rights abroad. And we will always serve as a voice for those who've been silenced.

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Now, I know, particularly this week, that for many in this hall, there's one issue that stands as a test for these principles and a test for American foreign policy, and that is the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

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One year ago, I stood at this podium and I called for an independent Palestine. I believed then, and I believe now, that the Palestinian people deserve a state of their own. But what I also said is that a genuine peace can only be realized between the Israelis and the Palestinians themselves. One year later, despite extensive efforts by America and others, the parties have not bridged their differences. Faced with this stalemate, I put forward a new basis for negotiations in May of this year. That basis is clear. It’s well known to all of us here. Israelis must know that any agreement provides assurances for their security. Palestinians deserve to know the territorial basis of their state.
 
Now, I know that many are frustrated by the lack of progress.
I assure you, so am I. But the question isn’t the goal that we seek -- the question is how do we reach that goal. And I am convinced that there is no short cut to the end of a conflict that has endured for decades. Peace is hard work. Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the United Nations -- if it were that easy, it would have been accomplished by now. Ultimately, it is the Israelis and the Palestinians who must live side by side. Ultimately, it is the Israelis and the Palestinians -- not us –- who must reach agreement on the issues that divide them: on borders and on security, on refugees and Jerusalem.
 
Ultimately, peace depends upon compromise among people who must live together long after our speeches are over, long after our votes have been tallied.
That’s the lesson of Northern Ireland, where ancient antagonists bridged their differences. That’s the lesson of Sudan, where a negotiated settlement led to an independent state. And that is and will be the path to a Palestinian state -- negotiations between the parties.
 
We seek a future where Palestinians live in a sovereign state of their own, with no limit to what they can achieve.
There’s no question that the Palestinians have seen that vision delayed for too long. It is precisely because we believe so strongly in the aspirations of the Palestinian people that America has invested so much time and so much effort in the building of a Palestinian state, and the negotiations that can deliver a Palestinian state.
 
But understand this as well: America’s commitment to Israel’s security is unshakeable.
Our friendship with Israel is deep and enduring. And so we believe that any lasting peace must acknowledge the very real security concerns that Israel faces every single day.

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Let us be honest with ourselves: Israel is surrounded by neighbors that have waged repeated wars against it. Israel’s citizens have been killed by rockets fired at their houses and suicide bombs on their buses. Israel’s children come of age knowing that throughout the region, other children are taught to hate them. Israel, a small country of less than eight million people, look out at a world where leaders of much larger nations threaten to wipe it off of the map. The Jewish people carry the burden of centuries of exile and persecution, and fresh memories of knowing that six million people were killed simply because of who they are. Those are facts. They cannot be denied.

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The Jewish people have forged a successful state in their historic homeland. Israel deserves recognition. It deserves normal relations with its neighbors. And friends of the Palestinians do them no favors by ignoring this truth, just as friends of Israel must recognize the need to pursue a two-state solution with a secure Israel next to an independent Palestine.
 
That is the truth -- each side has legitimate aspirations -- and that’s part of what makes peace so hard.
And the deadlock will only be broken when each side learns to stand in the other’s shoes; each side can see the world through the other’s eyes. That’s what we should be encouraging. That’s what we should be promoting.

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This body -- founded, as it was, out of the ashes of war and genocide, dedicated, as it is, to the dignity of every single person -- must recognize the reality that is lived by both the Palestinians and the Israelis. The measure of our actions must always be whether they advance the right of Israeli and Palestinian children to live lives of peace and security and dignity and opportunity. And we will only succeed in that effort if we can encourage the parties to sit down, to listen to each other, and to understand each other’s hopes and each other’s fears. That is the project to which America is committed. There are no shortcuts. And that is what the United Nations should be focused on in the weeks and months to come.

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Now, even as we confront these challenges of conflict and revolution, we must also recognize -- we must also remind ourselves -- that peace is not just the absence of war. True peace depends on creating the opportunity that makes life worth living. And to do that, we must confront the common enemies of humanity: nuclear weapons and poverty, ignorance and disease. These forces corrode the possibility of lasting peace and together we're called upon to confront them.

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To lift the specter of mass destruction, we must come together to pursue the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons. Over the last two years, we've begun to walk down that path. Since our Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, nearly 50 nations have taken steps to secure nuclear materials from terrorists and smugglers. Next March, a summit in Seoul will advance our efforts to lock down all of them. The New START Treaty between the United States and Russia will cut our deployed arsenals to the lowest level in half a century, and our nations are pursuing talks on how to achieve even deeper reductions. America will continue to work for a ban on the testing of nuclear weapons and the production of fissile material needed to make them.

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And so we have begun to move in the right direction. And the United States is committed to meeting our obligations. But even as we meet our obligations, we’ve strengthened the treaties and institutions that help stop the spread of these weapons. And to do so, we must continue to hold accountable those nations that flout them.

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The Iranian government cannot demonstrate that its program is peaceful. It has not met its obligations and it rejects offers that would provide it with peaceful nuclear power. North Korea has yet to take concrete steps towards abandoning its weapons and continues belligerent action against the South. There's a future of greater opportunity for the people of these nations if their governments meet their international obligations. But if they continue down a path that is outside international law, they must be met with greater pressure and isolation. That is what our commitment to peace and security demands.

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To bring prosperity to our people, we must promote the growth that creates opportunity. In this effort, let us not forget that we’ve made enormous progress over the last several decades. Closed societies gave way to open markets. Innovation and entrepreneurship has transformed the way we live and the things that we do. Emerging economies from Asia to the Americas have lifted hundreds of millions of people from poverty. It’s an extraordinary achievement. And yet, three years ago, we were confronted with the worst financial crisis in eight decades. And that crisis proved a fact that has become clearer with each passing year -- our fates are interconnected. In a global economy, nations will rise, or fall, together.

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And today, we confront the challenges that have followed on the heels of that crisis. Around the world recovery is still fragile. Markets remain volatile. Too many people are out of work. Too many others are struggling just to get by. We acted together to avert a depression in 2009. We must take urgent and coordinated action once more. Here in the United States, I've announced a plan to put Americans back to work and jumpstart our economy, at the same time as I’m committed to substantially reducing our deficits over time.

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We stand with our European allies as they reshape their institutions and address their own fiscal challenges. For other countries, leaders face a different challenge as they shift their economy towards more self-reliance, boosting domestic demand while slowing inflation. So we will work with emerging economies that have rebounded strongly, so that rising standards of living create new markets that promote global growth. That’s what our commitment to prosperity demands.

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To combat the poverty that punishes our children, we must act on the belief that freedom from want is a basic human right. The United States has made it a focus of our engagement abroad to help people to feed themselves. And today, as drought and conflict have brought famine to the Horn of Africa, our conscience calls on us to act. Together, we must continue to provide assistance, and support organizations that can reach those in need. And together, we must insist on unrestricted humanitarian access so that we can save the lives of thousands of men and women and children. Our common humanity is at stake. Let us show that the life of a child in Somalia is as precious as any other. That is what our commitment to our fellow human beings demand.

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To stop disease that spreads across borders, we must strengthen our system of public health. We will continue the fight against HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. We will focus on the health of mothers and of children. And we must come together to prevent, and detect, and fight every kind of biological danger -- whether it’s a pandemic like H1N1, or a terrorist threat, or a treatable disease.

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This week, America signed an agreement with the World Health Organization to affirm our commitment to meet this challenge. And today, I urge all nations to join us in meeting the HWO’s [sic] goal of making sure all nations have core capacities to address public health emergencies in place by 2012. That is what our commitment to the health of our people demands.

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To preserve our planet, we must not put off action that climate change demands. We have to tap the power of science to save those resources that are scarce. And together, we must continue our work to build on the progress made in Copenhagen and Cancun, so that all the major economies here today follow through on the commitments that were made. Together, we must work to transform the energy that powers our economies, and support others as they move down that path. That is what our commitment to the next generation demands.

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And to make sure our societies reach their potential, we must allow our citizens to reach theirs. No country can afford the corruption that plagues the world like a cancer. Together, we must harness the power of open societies and open economies. That’s why we’ve partnered with countries from across the globe to launch a new partnership on open government that helps ensure accountability and helps to empower citizens. No country should deny people their rights to freedom of speech and freedom of religion, but also no country should deny people their rights because of who they love, which is why we must stand up for the rights of gays and lesbians everywhere.

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And no country can realize its potential if half its population cannot reach theirs. This week, the United States signed a new Declaration on Women’s Participation. Next year, we should each announce the steps we are taking to break down the economic and political barriers that stand in the way of women and girls. This is what our commitment to human progress demands.
 
I know there’s no straight line to that progress, no single path to success.
We come from different cultures, and carry with us different histories. But let us never forget that even as we gather here as heads of different governments, we represent citizens who share the same basic aspirations -- to live with dignity and freedom; to get an education and pursue opportunity; to love our families, and love and worship our God; to live in the kind of peace that makes life worth living.

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It is the nature of our imperfect world that we are forced to learn these lessons over and over again. Conflict and repression will endure so long as some people refuse to do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Yet that is precisely why we have built institutions like this -- to bind our fates together, to help us recognize ourselves in each other -- because those who came before us believed that peace is preferable to war, and freedom is preferable to suppression, and prosperity is preferable to poverty. That’s the message that comes not from capitals, but from citizens, from our people.

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And when the cornerstone of this very building was put in place, President Truman came here to New York and said, “The United Nations is essentially an expression of the moral nature of man’s aspirations.” The moral nature of man’s aspirations. As we live in a world that is changing at a breathtaking pace, that’s a lesson that we must never forget.

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Peace is hard, but we know that it is possible. So, together, let us be resolved to see that it is defined by our hopes and not by our fears. Together, let us make peace, but a peace, most importantly, that will last.

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Thank you very much. (Applause.)
 
END
10:47 A.M. EDT

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DMU Timestamp: September 14, 2011 20:38

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Oct 1
ThinkProgress Quoted (Oct 01 2011 1:13AM) : Obama's Disappointing UN Speech more

The most immediately striking thing about President Obama’s speech today at the United Nations was the contrast in tone between it and his May 19 “Arab Spring” speech. I commended that speech at the time for its attention to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and for what it demonstrated about Obama’s understanding of the way that the irresolution of the conflict continues to negatively impact U.S. interests and relationships in the region, and how this would only increase as a result of the Arab awakening.
Addressing the issue in today’s speech, Obama gave a nod to the first part of that analysis — “Now I know that for many in this hall, one issue stands as a test for these principles – and for American foreign policy: the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians” — but nothing to the second. Indeed, perhaps the most disappointing thing in the speech was the way in which it attempted to cordon off the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from the broader shifts in the region, as if this were remotely possible. The May 19 speech was a courageous recognition of coming change, and a bold step toward adapting American leadership to those changes. Today’s was a step toward increased American isolation and irrelevance.
While Obama made a stirring and important statement regarding the security threats with which Israel lives, he made no similar statement about the Palestinians, nor any recognition that it is Palestinians, not Israelis, who are living under military occupation. And he certainly gave nothing to the Palestinian leadership that might help them justify to their public the sort of stand-down that he’s been pressuring them for. It’s hard to see how already-embattled Palestinian moderates don’t come away from the U.N. weaker and with even less political legitimacy than they had before. That is, to say the least, not a good thing for the goal of two states.
Having repeatedly and rightly declared the status quo in Israel-Palestine “unsustainable,” the administration’s efforts at the U.N. this past week, capped off by the president’s speech today, appeared as little more than an effort to preserve that status quo, at significant diplomatic expense and at considerable cost to America’s global standing. It was, in other words, probably the best demonstration possible for why the Palestinians decided to go to the U.N. in the first place.

-Matt Duss

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Oct 1
The Telegraph Quoted (Oct 01 2011 1:16AM) : This wasn't the speech Barack Obama wanted to be giving at the United Nations more

Ideally, he would have been hailing triumphant forward strides along the path to peace in the Middle East, or basking in the glow of a recently-inked peace deal.
That was his goal two years ago when he first took the podium at the UN’s headquarters on New York’s East River, confidently predicting that what had eluded countless US presidents before him would be achieved within two years.
Obama had it easy then. After eight years of George W Bush, who ignored the UN in launching the Iraq war and was consistently withering in his assessment of the institution’s usefulness, the world was very ready for Barack Obama. As Stewart Patrick of the Council of Foreign Relations has written, Obama promised a “new era of engagement” and “had his audience at hello”.
Last year the talks between the Israelis and Palestinians were still alive, just, and Obama was still able to bask in the new atmosphere of co-operation between the world’s only superpower and the rest of us.

There was much to celebrate yesterday: a resolute UN presence in the Ivory Coast which stood up to Laurent Gbagbo’s attempt to ignore election results; The UN-led referendum that created South Sudan from the ruins of two decades of conflict, and of course the Arab spring. Twelve months at the same forum, Tunisia, Egypt and Libya were all represented by now-departed dictators. It has, as Mr Obama said, been an extraordinary year. But not in the Middle East.

All the president could do was stress his desire to achieve a Palestinian state while safeguarding Israel’s security. As he has said so often before, it is up to the Israelis and Palestinians to “reach agreement on the issues that divide them”.

“Peace depends upon compromise among peoples who must live together long after our speeches are over, and our votes have been counted,” he said. Noble words, but words he could well have uttered verbatim when he addressed the issue two years ago.

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Oct 1
The Telegraph Quoted (Oct 01 2011 1:19AM) : Cuba's Fidel Castro criticised Barack Obama's speech to the United Nations as "gibberish" on Monday, saying the US president used a rambling address to justify the "unjustifiable." more

In his first published column since July, Castro, 85, criticised US and Nato intervention in Libya as “monstrous crimes” and said Mr Obama – whom he called the “Yankee president” – used a bully pulpit at the UN General Assembly last week to try and sway global opinion.

Fidel, who handed the presidency to his younger brother Raúl Castro in 2006 due to a health crisis, has laid low in recent months, and his column published in state media was his first since July 3.
In Monday’s piece he came out swinging, saying Mr Obama distorted the situations in Syria, Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Egypt, Afghanistan, North Korea, Libya and the Palestinian conflict, and that the US leader used “a long rant to explain and justify the inexplicable and unjustifiable.”
“Who understands the gibberish of the president of the United States before the General Assembly?” Castro asked.

Castro also took issue with the “fascist methods by the United States and its allies to confuse and manipulate global opinion,” and said he was heartened by the “resistance” of his key allies Hugo Chavez and Evo Moralez, presidents of Venezuela and Bolivia, respectively, who criticised US and UN policy in their speeches.

“Has any nation been excluded from the bloody threats of this illustrious defender of international peace and security?” Castro said of Mr Obama, whose UN quotes he cited extensively in his column.

“Who gave the United States such privileges?” Castro said.

He said countries must consider taking a stand at the General Assembly against the “Nato genocide in Libya,” an action Castro described as one of many “flagrant violations of principles.”

“Does anyone want it to be recorded that under their direction, the government of their nation supported the monstrous crimes by the United States and its Nato allies?” he said.

Washington and Havana are Cold War adversaries who have brought their mutual dislike and distrust into the 21st century, and Castro routinely makes political attacks on his ideological foe.

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Oct 1
Al Jazeera Quoted (Oct 01 2011 1:29AM) : Obama has been more pro-Israel than any US president before him, including George W Bush - but what will it get him? more

Palestinian freedoms, rights and self-determination are somehow supposed to be attained without the recourse to leverage, international law or meaningful international support, considered to be necessary and legitimate virtually everywhere else.

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Oct 1
New York Times Quoted (Oct 01 2011 1:37AM) : Obama Says Palestinians Are Using Wrong Forum more

UNITED NATIONS — President Obama declared his opposition to the Palestinian Authority’s bid for statehood through the Security Council on Wednesday, throwing the weight of the United States directly in the path of the Arab democracy movement even as he hailed what he called the democratic aspirations that have taken hold throughout the Middle East and North Africa.


“Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the U.N.,” Mr. Obama said, in an address before world leaders at the General Assembly. “If it were that easy, it would have been accomplished by now.”

Instead, Mr. Obama said, the international community should keep pushing Israelis and Palestinians toward talks on the four intractable issues that have vexed peace negotiations since 1979: borders of a Palestinian state, security for Israel, the status of Palestinian refugees and the fate of Jerusalem, which both sides claim for their capital.

For Mr. Obama, the challenge in crafting the much-anticipated General Assembly speech was how to address the incongruities of the administration’s position: the president who committed to making peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians a priority from Day One, now unable to get peace negotiations going after two and a half years; the president who opened the door to Palestinian state membership at the United Nations last year, now threatening to veto that membership; the president determined to get on the right side of Arab history but ending up, in the views of many Arabs, on the wrong side of it on the Palestinian issue.

The Arab Spring quandary, in particular, has been troublesome for Mr. Obama. White House officials say that he has long been keenly aware that he, like no other American president, stood as a potential beacon to the Arab street as the ultimate symbol of the hopes and rewards of democracy. But since he is the president of the United States, he has had to put American interests first.

So Mr. Obama’s 35-minute address appeared, at times, an effort to balance support for democratic movements against support for Israel, America’s foremost ally. From the start, everything he said seemed directed to the theme of what he called “peace in an imperfect world.”

Mr. Obama called this year “a time of transformation.” This year, he said, “more individuals are claiming their universal right to live in freedom and dignity.”

He congratulated the democratic movements in Ivory Coast, Tunisia and South Sudan. He congratulated the Egyptians and Libyans who toppled their autocrats. He sided with the protesters in Syria.

But, he said, Palestinians must make peace with Israel before gaining statehood themselves. Israelis and Palestinians, he said, have grievances and the United Nations must be an arbiter.

“This body, founded, as it was, out of the ashes of war and genocide; dedicated, as it is, to the dignity of every person, must recognize the reality that is lived by both the Palestinians and the Israelis,” he said. “We will only succeed in that effort if we can encourage the parties to sit down together, to listen to each other and to understand each other’s hopes and fears. That is the project to which America is committed, and that is what the United Nations should be focused on in the weeks and months to come.”

Several times as Mr. Obama spoke, the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, in the audience, put his forehead in his hand. But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel called the speech a “badge of honor.”

Three times under Mr. Obama’s tenure, the General Assembly meeting has put the complexities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict into stark relief.

In 2009, on Mr. Obama’s first visit as president, he abandoned his call for a freeze of settlements in the West Bank, meeting immovable resistance from Israel. The pivot was viewed as major setback in American efforts toward resumed peace talks.

Then last year, Mr. Obama delivered an impassioned call for Palestinian statehood within the next year, to be recognized, he said, in the United Nations.

Mr. Obama tried to acknowledge the shift, recalling his pledge and his belief that then, as now, “the Palestinian people deserve a state of their own.”

“But what I also said,” he added, “is that genuine peace can only be realized between Israelis and Palestinians themselves.”

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Oct 1
CNN Quoted (Oct 01 2011 1:40AM) : Obama applauds freedom's progress at UN more

n his eloquent address to the opening session of the United Nations General Assembly, President Obama outlined an optimistic vision for a world without war, though his treatment of important issues like Palestine fell short. For nearly seven decades, the UN has struggled with the overriding objective to pursue peace in an imperfect world. Yet, President Obama argued that the world is closer than ever before to realizing that goal, thanks not to the balance of power but concrete steps to advance human dignity, security and prosperity.

“Peace is hard”, the President repeatedly reminded his audience. But it is within our grasp. “The tide of war is receding,” as the United States draws troops down in Iraq and Afghanistan. The death of Osama bin Laden and the degradation of al Qaeda have reduced the threat of transnational terror. The demands for freedom that have “lit the world from Selma to South Africa” have now “come to Egypt and to the Arab World,” he proclaimed. Now, the President contended, “We stand at a crossroads of history with a chance to move decisively in the direction of peace.”
For an administration regularly pounded for being AWOL on human rights, Obama’s speech placed surprising emphasis on the fundamental human aspiration for freedom as the driving force of global change and the UN as ultimate guarantor of enduring peace. The President celebrated the world’s “extraordinary transformation” during 2011. Over the past year, the international community has supported the cause of human freedom in dramatic ways. It has shepherded the peaceful independence of South Sudan; supported non-violent political transitions in Tunisia and Egypt; and authorized military interventions to topple enduring dictators in Côte d’Ivoire and Libya. “This is how the international community is supposed to work,” the President declared, “nations standing together for the sake of peace and security; individuals claiming their rights.”
The President made a convincing case that oppression, insecurity and poverty are the ultimate causes of violence in the twenty-first century. Like the father of the United Nations, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Obama understands that enduring peace depends on ensuring freedom from fear and freedom from want for the peoples of the world.

What the President failed to do was to persuasively account for the many inconsistencies in U.S. efforts to advance human freedom and dignity around the world – or to offer alternative paths when the United Nations responds weakly to glaring atrocities. The President’s toughest moment came in explaining the U.S. stance on Palestinian statehood. As expected, he insisted the only true route to Middle East peace – and secure Palestinian statehood – must come through direct bilateral negotiations with the Israelis. “There are no shortcuts,” he insisted. But the overall message was incongruous, after his previous paeans to democratic self-determination in the Arab world. And it surely fell on deaf ears, given Palestinian impatience with Israeli obstruction, notably on settlement issues.
At this stage, Palestinian leaders feel they have little to lose from seeking statehood and the legitimacy that accompanies it. The President gave them few reasons to desist in this effort. The administration hopes to delay a Security Council vote on statehood indefinitely, to avoid casting a U.S. veto. But the Palestinians have another route to advance their aspirations – through the UN General Assembly.

Nor did the President provide any indication of how the United States intends to proceed on Syria, where the regime’s atrocities have exceeded those committed by Gadhafi – but without triggering the vigorous UN sanctions (much less armed intervention), given Russian veto threats. Obama was left with the toothless phrase, “Now is the time for the United Nations Security Council to sanction the Syrian regime, and to stand with the Syrian people.” He could have sharpened this demand considerably by explicitly calling on Moscow (and Beijing) to authorize a robust sanctions effort against the government of Bashar al-Assad – or at a minimum abstain from such a resolution.

President Obama concluded his speech with passing references to various other pressing issues. He called on the membership to “insist on unrestricted humanitarian access” in the Horn of Africa, but without proposing concrete action to ensure that this occurs. He entreated the membership to “build on the progress made in Copenhagen and Cancun,” without specifying which commitments should take priority. More substantially, he proposed increased international cooperation to give the World Health Organization the capabilities it needs to meet emerging threats to bio-security, both natural and man-made.
But the most striking aspect of Obama’s speech was less such particulars than its ethical and moral tone. In the president’s mind, world peace depends on the global advance of liberty, equality and justice. And “though there is no straight line to progress, no single path to success”, he left no doubt that, in his mind, the world is on the right track.

The President closed by recalling what Harry Truman had said when the cornerstone of the UN’s headquarters was being put in place: “The United Nations is essentially an expression of the moral nature of man’s aspirations.” While one may admire Truman’s (and Obama’s) idealism, the intervening seven decades have shown just how hard it can be for the United Nations – or any other international body – to fashion moral results from humanity’s crooked timber.

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Oct 1
The Nation Quoted (Oct 01 2011 1:49AM) : Obama's appearance at the United Nations was an unmitigated disaster more

Like a slow-motion train wreck, one that everyone knew was coming months ago, the president succumbed shamelessly to the domestic political pressure from the Israel lobby, its Republican party allies, and the menacing Benjamin Netanyahu, the thuggish prime minister of Israel. In one speech, Obama smashed to pieces every hopeful speech, false-start peace initiative and half-hearted initiative he’s tried since taking office. The appointment of George Mitchell as Middle East peace envoy? Dead. The June 2009, speech in Cairo aimed at rebuilding ties to the Arab and Muslim world? Dead. His feckless call for Israel to stop building illegal settlements on Palestinian land under occupation by Israel’s brutish army and a vast militia of armed, fanatical settlers? Dead. His weak-kneed call for a deal between Israel and Palestine based on the 1967 borders? Dead as a doornail.

It’s impossible to say, at this stage, how bad the damage will be. At the very least, the United States has ceded all leadership in the peace process. The impact in the Middle East will be enormous, not least among the Egyptian revolutionaries and other leaders of the Arab Spring who, already cynical and hostile to American policy on Israel, will now write off Washington completely, and turn to Europe, Russia and China. Saudi Arabia, whose former ambassador to the United States, Prince Turki, has been increasingly vocal in warning the United States that the Saudis will break with Washington, will step in to pick up the pieces now if the craven members of the US Congress cut off aid to the Palestinian Authority.

In his speech, in which Obama said nary a word about Palestinian suffering, nor a word about illegal Israeli expansion and settlements, he said this:

“Let us be honest with ourselves: Israel is surrounded by neighbors that have waged repeated wars against it. Israel’s citizens have been killed by rockets fired at their houses and suicide bombs on their buses. Israel’s children come of age knowing that throughout the region, other children are taught to hate them. Israel, a small country of less than eight million people, look out at a world where leaders of much larger nations threaten to wipe it off of the map. The Jewish people carry the burden of centuries of exile and persecution, and fresh memories of knowing that six million people were killed simply because of who they are. Those are facts. They cannot be denied.”

Netanyahu, the boorish piece of muscle who runs Israel, called Obama’s speech a “badge of honor.” According to news reports, though, the entire UN General Assembly sat on its hands during Obama’s speech, not applauding once. Mahmoud Abbas, the PA president, watched glumly, his head in his hands.

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Oct 1
LA Times Quoted (Oct 01 2011 1:53AM) : Palestinians denounce Obama's U.N. speech more

REPORTING FROM RAMALLAH, WEST BANK — It did not take Palestinians long after President Obama finished the section of his United Nations General Assembly speech on their conflict with Israel to turn off their TVs and turn to issuing statements of disappointment, criticism and condemnation of the speech.

While Palestinians in general were expecting to hear what they considered a bad speech in light of the strong U.S. opposition to their efforts to win U.N. membership for their still-unborn state, they did not expect it to be that bad.

“Obama went back on all the moral principles he once stood for that rallied the entire world behind him when he was elected president,” said Saleh Rafat, member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s executive committee, addressing crowds who gathered in Ramallah on Thursday to protest Obama’s speech.

“Obama, don’t make of our misery material for your reelection campaign,” said a sign raised by a high school student at the demonstration.

Rafat’s words were only a drop in a sea of Palestinian criticism of Obama’s speech. Not a single Palestinian seems to have found anything good to say about it.

“When I was listening to Obama, I thought it was listening to [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu speaking to the U.S. Congress,” said Mustafa Barghouti, head of the Palestinian National Initiative.

“If Obama wants to champion freedoms of people around the world, he ought to stand by the Palestinian people who are fighting occupation, repression and racial discrimination and who are fighting to win freedom and independence,” said Tawfik Tirawi, a former Palestinian Authority security official and member of Fatah’s Central Committee.

By asking for U.N. recognition and membership, Palestinians are indicating that they have lost confidence that the U.S. can persuade Israel to agree to a statehood arrangement after years of sporadic and acrimonious negotiations.

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Oct 1
The Daily Star Lebanon Quoted (Oct 01 2011 1:56AM) : Obama's UN speech boosts ratings in Israel more

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: U.S. President Barack Obama’s popularity has risen sharply in Israel after he spoke out forcibly against a Palestinian statehood bid at the United Nations last week, according to a poll published by the Jerusalem Post Wednesday.

The poll, in the Jerusalem Post newspaper, showed that 56 percent of respondents consider the Obama administration’s policies more beneficial to Israel than to the Palestinians.

Just 19 percent said Obama’s policies favored the Palestinians, while 27 percent called them neutral. A survey in May showed 12 percent thought U.S. policy was pro-Israel and 40 percent saw it as pro-Palestinian.

The survey, conducted by Keevoon Research, polled 506 Hebrew-speaking adults and had a margin of error of 4.5 percentage points, the Post said.

“President Obama’s speech at the U.N. had a very big impact on Israelis,” it quoted Keevoon director Mitchell Barak as saying.

“He clearly stated support for key elements of the Israeli position while avoiding articulating some of the controversial U.S. positions that divide Israelis. For Israelis, his speech was as much about what he didn’t say as it was significant for what he did say.”

In his address to the General Assembly, Obama reiterated his opposition to the Palestinians’ attempt to win U.N. membership, saying there was no “shortcut” to peace.

“Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the U.N. – if it were that easy, it would have been accomplished by now,” he said.

Obama’s speech, which an Israeli newspaper described as “Zionist,” included references to Israel’s neighbors, suicide bombs and the Holocaust.

But Palestinian leaders complained that he had ignored the plight of their people who have been striving for independence for decades and made no mention of Israeli settlement building on land the Palestinians want for a future state.

After taking office in 2009, Obama was criticized by many pro-Israeli groups for being too tough on Israel in his efforts to coerce the two sides back to the negotiating table.

Recent polls in the U.S. media have said his popularity among U.S. Jewish voters – traditionally loyal to the Democratic Party – has slipped and the Republican party has been swift to brand Obama as anti-Israeli.


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