Obama laments skepticism over Mideast peace plan

By Julie Mason Examiner White House Correspondent

 

Warning that “more blood will be shed” in the Middle East, President Obama exhorted world leaders to overcome skepticism and support his efforts toward peace.

“I recognize many are pessimistic about this process,” Obama told the U.N. General Assembly. “The cynics say that Israelis and Palestinians are too distrustful of each other, and too divided internally, to forge lasting peace.”

Obama also used his second appearance before the gathering to continue pressuring Iran to participate with nuclear diplomacy, and announced plans to travel to Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim-majority country, to continue his bridge building with Islam.

But with regard to the Middle East, Obama said this time “can be different.” Rather than making the same speeches and revisiting decades-old grievances, or “we should reach for what's best within ourselves” and finally clear a two-state solution.

His remarks come at a critical juncture in the peace effort — a seemingly intractable problem that has stymied presidents dating back to Richard Nixon.

After a somewhat promising start recently in Washington, Palestinians are threatening to abandon talks if Israel fails to extend a moratorium on settlement reconstruction that is set to expire next week.

“We believe that the moratorium should be extended,” Obama said. “We also believe that talks should press on until completed.”

Brokering peace in the region would be a historic, legacy-affirming accomplishment for Obama, and he has lately made a strong push to get the stalled talks back on track.

To bolster his case, Obama warned that failure to see the process through will mean both sides lose, and the cause of peace could be irrevocably lost. He called on Arab states to take a stronger role in the effort.

“The hard realities of demography will take hold. More blood will be shed,” he said. “This Holy Land will remain a symbol of our differences, instead of our common humanity.”

With some tarnish on the political luster he brought to the same venue last year — when his policies were still new and his presidency largely untested — Obama also reiterated an appeal to Iran.

“Now let me be clear once more: The United States and the international community seek a resolution to our differences with Iran, and the door remains open to diplomacy should Iran choose to walk through it,” Obama said.

But a short time after Obama spoke, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told the same body that “some segments within the U.S. government orchestrated the [9/11] attack to reverse the declining American economy, and its grips on the Middle East, in order to save the Zionist regime.”

That caused the U.S. delegation to leave the hall, and demonstrated the gulf between views on Middle Eastern peace, some experts say.

James Phillips, an expert on the region at the Heritage Foundation, said the administration “is still wedded to a failed engagement policy” with Iran. Phillips called that “wishful thinking.”

jmason@washingtonexaminer.com

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