Obama Presidency March 26, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Middle East Trip to Israel & Jordan Photo Gallery

POLITICAL BUZZ

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Photo Gallery: President Obama’s Middle East Trip

Source: WH, 3-26-13

In the first foreign trip of his second term, President Obama embarked on a four-day visit to Israel, the West Bank and Jordan.

The White House Photo Office was with the President throughout his travels, and they’ve put together a collection of images from the Middle East trip, which include the President meeting with officials including Prime Minister Netanyahu in Israel, a dance performance in Ramallah, the West Bank and breathtaking shots from Petra, a World Heritage Site in Jordan. Check out the gallery below and visit our Middle East trip page for more information, including video.

The President Pauses For National Anthem
President Obama pauses during the official arrival ceremony in Tel Aviv, Israel. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

The President Waves To The Audience
President Obama waves at the Jerusalem Convention Center in Jerusalem. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

The President Visits The Hall Of Remembrance

President Obama pauses during his visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

The President Tours The Church Of The Nativity

President Obama tours the crypt containing the birthplace of Jesus. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Political Headlines March 22, 2013: President Barack Obama Ends Israel Trip with Nods to Christianity, Judaism

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama Ends Israel Trip with Nods to Christianity, Judaism

Source: ABC News Radio, 3-22-13

Uriel Sinai/Getty Images

Concluding his three-day trip to Israel, President Obama got an unplanned look at the political realities plaguing the peace process during a visit to Bethlehem Friday afternoon.

The president was supposed to fly by helicopter to Bethlehem but a windstorm forced him to travel by motorcade instead.  The change in plans was cheered by Palestinians because the president drove past the large concrete wall erected by the Israelis, giving Obama a direct look at the hostilities facing the region on a daily basis….READ MORE

Political Headlines March 22, 2013: President Barack Obama Tours Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum in Israel

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama Tours Holocaust Memorial in Israel

Source: ABC News Radio, 3-22-13

Pool photo/Peter Maer/CBS News

On his third day in the Middle East, President Obama toured Vad Yashem, Israel’s memorial for Jews killed in the Holocaust during World War II.

“You could come here a thousand times and each time our hearts would break for here we see the depravity to which man could sink,” Obama said on Friday….READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency March 22, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speech at the Hall of Children, Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum in Jerusalem Transcript

POLITICAL BUZZ

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at the Hall of Children, Yad Vashem

Source: WH, 3-22-13 

Yad Vashem
Jerusalem

10:22 A.M. IST

THE PRESIDENT:  “Unto them I will give my house and within my walls a memorial and a name…an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.”

President Peres, Prime Minister Netanyahu, Chairman Shalev, Rabbi Lau — thank you for sharing this house, this memorial, with me today.  And thank you to the people of Israel for preserving the names of the millions taken from us, of blessed memory — names that shall never be forgotten.

This is my second visit to this living memorial.  Since then, I’ve walked among the barbed wire and guard towers of Buchenwald.  Rabbi Lau told me of his time there, and we reminisced about our good friend, Elie Wiesel, and the memories that he shared with me.  I have stood in the old Warsaw ghetto, with survivors who would not go quietly.  But nothing equals the wrenching power of this sacred place, where the totality of the Shoah is told.  We could come here a thousand times, and each time our hearts would break.

For here we see the depravity to which man can sink; the barbarism that unfolds when we begin to see our fellow human beings as somehow less than us, less worthy of dignity and of life.  We see how evil can, for a moment in time, triumph when good people do nothing, and how silence abetted a crime unique in human history.

Here we see their faces and we hear their voices.  We look upon the objects of their lives — the art that they created, the prayer books that they carried.  We see that even as they had hate etched into their arms, they were not numbers.  They were men and women and children — so many children — sent to their deaths because of who they were, how they prayed, or who they loved.

And yet, here, alongside man’s capacity for evil, we also are reminded of man’s capacity for good — the rescuers, the Righteous Among the Nations who refused to be bystanders.  And in their noble acts of courage, we see how this place, this accounting of horror, is, in the end, a source of hope.

For here we learn that we are never powerless.  In our lives we always have choices.  To succumb to our worst instincts or to summon the better angels of our nature.  To be indifferent to suffering to wherever it may be, whoever it may be visited upon, or to display the empathy that is at the core of our humanity.  We have the choice to acquiesce to evil or make real our solemn vow — “never again.”  We have the choice to ignore what happens to others, or to act on behalf of others and to continually examine in ourselves whatever dark places there may be that might lead to such actions or inactions.  This is our obligation — not simply to bear witness, but to act.

For us, in our time, this means confronting bigotry and hatred in all of its forms, racism, especially anti-Semitism.  None of that has a place in the civilized world — not in the classrooms of children; not in the corridors of power.  And let us never forget the link between the two.  For our sons and daughters are not born to hate, they are taught to hate.  So let us fill their young hearts with the same understanding and compassion that we hope others have for them.

Here we hope.  Because after you walk through these halls, after you pass through the darkness, there is light — a glorious view of the Jerusalem Forest, with the sun shining over the historic homeland of the Jewish people; a fulfillment of the prophecy: “you shall live again…upon your own soil.”  Here, on your ancient land, let it be said for all the world to hear:  The State of Israel does not exist because of the Holocaust.  But with the survival of a strong Jewish State of Israel, such a Holocaust will never happen again.

Here we pray that we all can be better; that we can all grow, like the sapling near the Children’s Memorial — a sapling from a chestnut tree that Anne Frank could see from her window.  The last time she described it in her diary, she wrote: “Our chestnut tree is in full bloom.  It’s covered with leaves and is even more beautiful than last year.”  That’s a reminder of who we can be.  But we have to work for it.  We have to work for it here in Israel.  We have to work for it in America.  We have to work for it around the world — to tend the light and the brightness as opposed to our worst instincts.

So may God bless the memory of the millions.  May their souls be bound up in the bond of eternal life.  And may each spring bring a full bloom even more beautiful than the last.

END
10:29 A.M. IST

Political Headlines March 21, 2013: President Barack Obama Stands Firm on Mideast Two-State Solution in Israel Speech

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama Stands Firm on Mideast Two-State Solution

Source: ABC News Radio, 3-21-13

Yin Dongxun-Pool/Getty Images

Speaking before a young Israeli audience in Jerusalem, President Obama Thursday delivered an impassioned plea for Israelis and Palestinians to reach a peaceful two-state solution while he affirmed the “unbreakable bonds of friendship” between the United States and Israel.

“The only way for Israel to endure and thrive as a Jewish and democratic state is through the realization of an independent and viable Palestine,” President Obama said at the Jerusalem Convention Center. “Peace is necessary, but peace is also just.”…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency March 21, 2013: President Barack Obama & President Shimon Peres of Israel’s Speeches at State Dinner

POLITICAL BUZZ

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by President and President Peres of Israel at State Dinner

Source: WH, 3-21-13

President’s Residence
Jerusalem

8:15 P.M. IST

PRESIDENT PERES:  I think that’s the President’s remarks.  Mr. President, can I read your speech?  (Laughter.)  They are mistaken.  (Laughter.)

President Barack Obama, my dear friend, let me say first, Bravo.  Bravo, President.  (Applause.)

It is my great pleasure to welcome you tonight.  I was moved the way in which you spoke to the heart of our young Israelis.  Our youngsters, in time of need, are always willing to stand up and defend their country.  Today, you have seen how much the same young people long for peace.  How enthusiastic they were, how engaged they were, listening to the vision of peace, which you beautifully delivered and moved the heart.

Mr. President, this morning several rockets were shot from the Gaza Strip towards civilian targets in Israel, including Sderot that you have visited.  From here, in the name of all us, I want to convey our love to the inhabitants of the south around Gaza who carry this heavy burden courageously and continue to plow their land, plant their trees, raise their children.  It is an inspiration to each of us.  Today, the enemies of peace spoke in the only language they know — the language of terror.  I am convinced that together we shall defeat them.

Dear Barack, your visit here is a historic event.  We are so happy to receive you and your distinguished delegation.  I am very glad to see Secretary John Kerry — an old friend.  John, I know you are and I know you will be successful.  I’m not sure that the prophets have had speechwriters — (laughter) — but if they had, I imagine Isaiah would have said — but actually he has said on that occasion — and I’m quoting him, “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation.” Well, you have to be satisfied with my language — I cannot speak like him.  (Laughter.)

It is my privilege to present you with our country’s highest honor — the Medal of Distinction.  This award speaks to you, to your tireless work to make Israel strong, to make peace possible. Your presidency has given the closest ties between Israel and the United States a new height, a sense of intimacy, a vision for the future.

The people of Israel are particularly moved by your unforgettable contribution to their security.  You are defending our skies — to you, revelation in the name of intelligence, which is the right way to preempt bloodshed.  The diplomatic and the military bonds between us have reached an unprecedented level.

When I visited you in Washington, I thought in my heart, America is so great and we are so small.  I learned that you don’t measure us by size, but by values.  Thank you.  When it comes to values, we are you, and you are us.  On occasions when we were alone you stood with us, so we were not alone.  We were alone together.  We shall never forget it.

During your previous visit to Israel, you asked me if I had any advice to offer.  Well, it’s not my nature to let questions go unanswered.  (Laughter.)  So just that while people say that the future belongs to the young, it is the present that really belongs to the young.  Leave the future to me.  I have time.  (Laughter and applause.)

I think I was right, because the moment you came into office, you immediately had to face daunting and demanding challenges day in, day out.  I prayed that you would meet them with wisdom and determination, without losing hope, without allowing others to lose hope.  The prayers were answered — after all, they came from Jerusalem and they came to us as a great message.  It is a tribute to your leadership, to the strength of your character, to your principles, that you have never surrendered to hopelessness.  You stood and stand firmly by your vision.  Your values serve your nation.  They serve our nation as well.

So I know that you will never stop to strive for a better world, as you said today in a good Hebrew — tikkun olam.  We have a rich heritage and a great dream.  As I look back, I feel that the Israel of today has exceeded the vision we had 65 years ago.  Reality has surpassed the dreams.  The United States of America helped us to make this possible.

Still the path to tomorrow may be fraught with obstacles.  I believe that we can overcome them by our determination and by your commitment.  I’m convinced that you will do whatever is necessary to free the world’s horizons and the skies of Jerusalem from the Iranian threat.  Iran denies the Shoah and calls for a new one.  Iran is building a nuclear bomb and denies it.  The Iranian regime is the greatest danger to world peace.  History has shown time and again that peace, prosperity and stable civil society cannot flourish when threats and belligerency abound.

Ladies and gentlemen, tonight the Iranian people are celebrating their New Year.  I wish them from the depths of my heart a happy holiday and a real freedom.

Israel will seize any opportunity for peace.  Being small, we have to maintain our qualitative edge.  I know that you responded and will respond to it.  The strength of Israel is its defense forces.  They afford us the ability to seek peace.  And what America has contributed to Israel’s security is the best guarantee to end the march of folly, the march of terror and bloodshed.

We watch with admiration the way you lead the United States of America, the way you have stayed true time and again to your bonds of friendship with us.  Your commitment and deeds speaks volumes about the principles that guides America.  To strive for freedom and democracy at home, but also all over the world, you send the boys to fight for the freedom of others.  What is uplifting is that the United States brought freedom not only to its own people, but never stops, and never will stop, to help other people to become free.

You represent democracy at its best.  You have deepened its meaning — namely that democracy is not just the right to be equal, but the equal right to be different.  Democracy is not just a free expression, but is self-expression as well.

You exemplify the spirit of democracy by striving for justice and equality and opportunity in the American society.  As the world has now become global and yet remains individual, and you offer those principles.  You have shown global responsibility and individual sensitivity.

On Monday night, Mr. President, we shall celebrate Passover, the Festival of Freedom, the Celebration of Spring.  The Celebration of Spring means our journey from the house of slaves to the home of the free that started more than 3,000 years ago. We remember it every year.  We are commended to feel as though each of us personally participated in that journey.  We shall not forget where we came from.  We shall remember always where we are headed, too, which is to make the Promised Land a land of promise, a land of freedom, justice and equality.

While reality calls for vigilance, Passover calls to remain believers.  Israel is an island in a stormy sea.  We have to make our island safe and we wish that the sea will become tranquil.  We converted our desert into a garden.  It was achieved by the talents of our people and the potential of science.  What we have done, Mr. President, can be done all over the Middle East, as you have rightly said tonight.  Israel is described as a start-up nation.  The Middle East can become a start-up region.

Dear President, you noted in your address today that peace is the greatest hope for the human being.  I share your vision.  Your call to reopen the peace process may pave the way for the implementation of the two-state solution agreed by all of us — as you said, a Jewish state, Israel; an Arab state, Palestine.

If I’m not wrong, next to you sits our Prime Minister who was just reelected.  He opened his address in the Knesset by reiterating his commitment to the two-state solution.  Dear friends, I have seen in my life I earned the right to believe that peace is attainable.  As you felt today, I know, this is the deep conviction of our people.  With our resolve and your support, Barack Obama, we shall win and it will happen.

Mr. President, I am privileged to bestow upon you the Medal of Distinction.  It was recommended by a committee of seven prominent Israeli citizens, headed by our former Chief of Justice Meir Shamgar, and includes our former President Yitzhak Navon.  It was my view and I was glad to accept their recommendation.  You inspired the world with your leadership.  Toda raba, Mr. President.  Toda from a grateful nation to a very great leader.

God bless America.  God bless Israel.  (Applause.)

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  President Peres; Prime Minister Netanyahu and First Lady Sara; distinguished guests and friends.  This is a extraordinary honor for me and I could not be more deeply moved. And I have to say, after the incredible welcome I’ve received over the past two days and the warmth of the Israeli people, the tribute from President Peres, the honor of this medal — I mean, as you say, dayenu.  ((Applause.)

Now, I’m told that the Talmud teaches that you shouldn’t pronounce all the praises of a person in their presence.  And, Mr. President, if I praised all the chapters of your remarkable life, then we would be here all night.  (Laughter.)  So let me simply say this about our gracious host.

Mr. President, the State of Israel has been the cause of your life — through bitter wars and fragile peace, through hardship and prosperity.  You’ve built her.  You’ve cared for her.  You’ve strengthened her.  You’ve nurtured the next generation who will inherit her.

Ben Gurion.  Meir.  Begin.  Rabin.  These giants have left us.  Only you are with us still — a founding father in our midst.  And we are so grateful for your vision, your friendship, but most of all, for your example, including the example of your extraordinary vitality.  Every time I see your President I ask him who his doctor is.  (Laughter.)  We all want to know the secret.

So, with gratitude for your life and your service, and as you prepare to celebrate your 90th birthday this summer — and since I’m starting to get pretty good at Hebrew — (laughter) — let me propose a toast — even though you’ve taken away my wine
— (laughter.)  Come on.  Bring another.

How are you?

SERVER:  Here you are, sir.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  A toast — ad me’ah ve’esrim.  L’chaim! (Applause.)  Mmm, that’s good wine.  (Laughter.)  Actually, we should probably get this out of the photograph.  All these people will say I’m having too much fun in Israel.  (Laughter.)

Just a few more words, Mr. President.  You mentioned that this medal is presented in recognition of progress toward the ideals of equality and opportunity and justice.  But I am mindful that I stand here tonight because of so many others, including the example and the sacrifices of the Jewish people.

In a few days, as we do at every Seder, we’ll break and hide a piece of matzoh.  It’s a great way to entertain the kids.  Malia and Sasha, even though they are getting older, they still enjoy it — and there are a lot of good places to hide it in the White House.  (Laughter.)  But on a much deeper level, it speaks to the scope of our human experience — how parts of our lives can be broken while other parts can be elusive; how we can never give up searching for the things that make us whole.  And few know this better than the Jewish people.

After slavery and decades in the wilderness and with Moses gone, the future of the Israelites was in doubt.  But with Joshua as their guide, they pushed on to victory.  After the First Temple was destroyed, it seemed Jerusalem was lost.  But with courage and resolve, the Second Temple reestablished the Jewish presence.  After centuries of persecution and pogroms, the Shoah aimed to eliminate the entire Jewish people.  But the gates of the camps flew open, and there emerged the ultimate rebuke to hate and to ignorance — survivors would live and love again.

When the moment of Israel’s independence was met by aggression on all sides, it was unclear whether this nation would survive.  But with heroism and sacrifice, the State of Israel not only endured, but thrived.  And during six days in June and Yom Kippur one October, it seemed as though all you had built might be lost.  But when the guns fell silent it was clear — “the nation of Israel lives.”

As I said in my speech earlier today, this story — from slavery to salvation, of overcoming even the most overwhelming odds — is a message that’s inspired the world.  And that includes Jewish Americans but also African Americans, who have so often had to deal with their own challenges, but with whom you have stood shoulder to shoulder.

African Americans and Jewish Americans marched together at Selma and Montgomery, with rabbis carrying the Torah as they walked.  They boarded buses for freedom rides together.  They bled together.  They gave their lives together — Jewish Americans like Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner alongside  African American, James Chaney.

Because of their sacrifice, because of the struggle of generations in both our countries, we can come together tonight, in freedom and in security.  So if I can paraphrase the Psalm — they turned our mourning into dancing; they changed our sack cloths into robes of joy.

And this evening, I’d like to close with the words of two leaders who brought us some of this joy.  Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel was born in Poland and lost his mother and sisters to the Nazis.  He came to America.  He raised his voice for social justice.  He marched with Martin Luther King.  And he spoke of the State of Israel in words that could well describe the struggle for equality in America.  “Our very existence is a witness that man must live toward redemption,” he said, and “that history is not always made by man alone.”

Rabbi Joachim Prinz was born in Germany, expelled by the Nazis and found refuge in America, and he built support for the new State of Israel.  And on that August day in 1963, he joined Dr. King at the March on Washington.  And this is what Rabbi Prinz said to the crowd:

“In the realm of the spirit, our fathers taught us thousands of years ago that when God created man, he created him as everybody’s neighbor.  Neighbor is not a geographic concept.  It is a moral concept.  It means our collective responsibility for the preservation of man’s dignity and integrity.”

President Peres, Prime Minister Netanyahu, friends — our very existence, our presence here tonight, is a testament that all things are possible, even those things that, in moments of darkness and doubt, may seem elusive.  The stories of our peoples teach us to never stop searching for the things — the justice and the peace — that make us whole.  And so we go forward together, with confidence, we’ll know that while our countries may be separated by a great ocean, in the realm of the spirit we will always be neighbors and friends.

I very humbly accept this award, understanding that I’m accepting it on behalf of the American people, who are joined together with you.

May God bless you and may He watch over our two great nations.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

END
8:44 P.M. IST

Full Text Obama Presidency March 21, 2013: President Barack Obama & Israel President Shimon Peres’s Speeches at State Dinner

POLITICAL BUZZ

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by President and President Peres of Israel at State Dinner

Source: WH, 3-21-13

President’s Residence
Jerusalem

8:15 P.M. IST

PRESIDENT PERES:  I think that’s the President’s remarks.  Mr. President, can I read your speech?  (Laughter.)  They are mistaken.  (Laughter.)

President Barack Obama, my dear friend, let me say first, Bravo.  Bravo, President.  (Applause.)

It is my great pleasure to welcome you tonight.  I was moved the way in which you spoke to the heart of our young Israelis.  Our youngsters, in time of need, are always willing to stand up and defend their country.  Today, you have seen how much the same young people long for peace.  How enthusiastic they were, how engaged they were, listening to the vision of peace, which you beautifully delivered and moved the heart.

Mr. President, this morning several rockets were shot from the Gaza Strip towards civilian targets in Israel, including Sderot that you have visited.  From here, in the name of all us, I want to convey our love to the inhabitants of the south around Gaza who carry this heavy burden courageously and continue to plow their land, plant their trees, raise their children.  It is an inspiration to each of us.  Today, the enemies of peace spoke in the only language they know — the language of terror.  I am convinced that together we shall defeat them.

Dear Barack, your visit here is a historic event.  We are so happy to receive you and your distinguished delegation.  I am very glad to see Secretary John Kerry — an old friend.  John, I know you are and I know you will be successful.  I’m not sure that the prophets have had speechwriters — (laughter) — but if they had, I imagine Isaiah would have said — but actually he has said on that occasion — and I’m quoting him, “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation.” Well, you have to be satisfied with my language — I cannot speak like him.  (Laughter.)

It is my privilege to present you with our country’s highest honor — the Medal of Distinction.  This award speaks to you, to your tireless work to make Israel strong, to make peace possible. Your presidency has given the closest ties between Israel and the United States a new height, a sense of intimacy, a vision for the future.

The people of Israel are particularly moved by your unforgettable contribution to their security.  You are defending our skies — to you, revelation in the name of intelligence, which is the right way to preempt bloodshed.  The diplomatic and the military bonds between us have reached an unprecedented level.

When I visited you in Washington, I thought in my heart, America is so great and we are so small.  I learned that you don’t measure us by size, but by values.  Thank you.  When it comes to values, we are you, and you are us.  On occasions when we were alone you stood with us, so we were not alone.  We were alone together.  We shall never forget it.

During your previous visit to Israel, you asked me if I had any advice to offer.  Well, it’s not my nature to let questions go unanswered.  (Laughter.)  So just that while people say that the future belongs to the young, it is the present that really belongs to the young.  Leave the future to me.  I have time.  (Laughter and applause.)

I think I was right, because the moment you came into office, you immediately had to face daunting and demanding challenges day in, day out.  I prayed that you would meet them with wisdom and determination, without losing hope, without allowing others to lose hope.  The prayers were answered — after all, they came from Jerusalem and they came to us as a great message.  It is a tribute to your leadership, to the strength of your character, to your principles, that you have never surrendered to hopelessness.  You stood and stand firmly by your vision.  Your values serve your nation.  They serve our nation as well.

So I know that you will never stop to strive for a better world, as you said today in a good Hebrew — tikkun olam.  We have a rich heritage and a great dream.  As I look back, I feel that the Israel of today has exceeded the vision we had 65 years ago.  Reality has surpassed the dreams.  The United States of America helped us to make this possible.

Still the path to tomorrow may be fraught with obstacles.  I believe that we can overcome them by our determination and by your commitment.  I’m convinced that you will do whatever is necessary to free the world’s horizons and the skies of Jerusalem from the Iranian threat.  Iran denies the Shoah and calls for a new one.  Iran is building a nuclear bomb and denies it.  The Iranian regime is the greatest danger to world peace.  History has shown time and again that peace, prosperity and stable civil society cannot flourish when threats and belligerency abound.

Ladies and gentlemen, tonight the Iranian people are celebrating their New Year.  I wish them from the depths of my heart a happy holiday and a real freedom.

Israel will seize any opportunity for peace.  Being small, we have to maintain our qualitative edge.  I know that you responded and will respond to it.  The strength of Israel is its defense forces.  They afford us the ability to seek peace.  And what America has contributed to Israel’s security is the best guarantee to end the march of folly, the march of terror and bloodshed.

We watch with admiration the way you lead the United States of America, the way you have stayed true time and again to your bonds of friendship with us.  Your commitment and deeds speaks volumes about the principles that guides America.  To strive for freedom and democracy at home, but also all over the world, you send the boys to fight for the freedom of others.  What is uplifting is that the United States brought freedom not only to its own people, but never stops, and never will stop, to help other people to become free.

You represent democracy at its best.  You have deepened its meaning — namely that democracy is not just the right to be equal, but the equal right to be different.  Democracy is not just a free expression, but is self-expression as well.

You exemplify the spirit of democracy by striving for justice and equality and opportunity in the American society.  As the world has now become global and yet remains individual, and you offer those principles.  You have shown global responsibility and individual sensitivity.

On Monday night, Mr. President, we shall celebrate Passover, the Festival of Freedom, the Celebration of Spring.  The Celebration of Spring means our journey from the house of slaves to the home of the free that started more than 3,000 years ago. We remember it every year.  We are commended to feel as though each of us personally participated in that journey.  We shall not forget where we came from.  We shall remember always where we are headed, too, which is to make the Promised Land a land of promise, a land of freedom, justice and equality.

While reality calls for vigilance, Passover calls to remain believers.  Israel is an island in a stormy sea.  We have to make our island safe and we wish that the sea will become tranquil.  We converted our desert into a garden.  It was achieved by the talents of our people and the potential of science.  What we have done, Mr. President, can be done all over the Middle East, as you have rightly said tonight.  Israel is described as a start-up nation.  The Middle East can become a start-up region.

Dear President, you noted in your address today that peace is the greatest hope for the human being.  I share your vision.  Your call to reopen the peace process may pave the way for the implementation of the two-state solution agreed by all of us — as you said, a Jewish state, Israel; an Arab state, Palestine.

If I’m not wrong, next to you sits our Prime Minister who was just reelected.  He opened his address in the Knesset by reiterating his commitment to the two-state solution.  Dear friends, I have seen in my life I earned the right to believe that peace is attainable.  As you felt today, I know, this is the deep conviction of our people.  With our resolve and your support, Barack Obama, we shall win and it will happen.

Mr. President, I am privileged to bestow upon you the Medal of Distinction.  It was recommended by a committee of seven prominent Israeli citizens, headed by our former Chief of Justice Meir Shamgar, and includes our former President Yitzhak Navon.  It was my view and I was glad to accept their recommendation.  You inspired the world with your leadership.  Toda raba, Mr. President.  Toda from a grateful nation to a very great leader.

God bless America.  God bless Israel.  (Applause.)

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  President Peres; Prime Minister Netanyahu and First Lady Sara; distinguished guests and friends.  This is a extraordinary honor for me and I could not be more deeply moved. And I have to say, after the incredible welcome I’ve received over the past two days and the warmth of the Israeli people, the tribute from President Peres, the honor of this medal — I mean, as you say, dayenu.  ((Applause.)

Now, I’m told that the Talmud teaches that you shouldn’t pronounce all the praises of a person in their presence.  And, Mr. President, if I praised all the chapters of your remarkable life, then we would be here all night.  (Laughter.)  So let me simply say this about our gracious host.

Mr. President, the State of Israel has been the cause of your life — through bitter wars and fragile peace, through hardship and prosperity.  You’ve built her.  You’ve cared for her.  You’ve strengthened her.  You’ve nurtured the next generation who will inherit her.

Ben Gurion.  Meir.  Begin.  Rabin.  These giants have left us.  Only you are with us still — a founding father in our midst.  And we are so grateful for your vision, your friendship, but most of all, for your example, including the example of your extraordinary vitality.  Every time I see your President I ask him who his doctor is.  (Laughter.)  We all want to know the secret.

So, with gratitude for your life and your service, and as you prepare to celebrate your 90th birthday this summer — and since I’m starting to get pretty good at Hebrew — (laughter) — let me propose a toast — even though you’ve taken away my wine
— (laughter.)  Come on.  Bring another.

How are you?

SERVER:  Here you are, sir.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  A toast — ad me’ah ve’esrim.  L’chaim! (Applause.)  Mmm, that’s good wine.  (Laughter.)  Actually, we should probably get this out of the photograph.  All these people will say I’m having too much fun in Israel.  (Laughter.)

Just a few more words, Mr. President.  You mentioned that this medal is presented in recognition of progress toward the ideals of equality and opportunity and justice.  But I am mindful that I stand here tonight because of so many others, including the example and the sacrifices of the Jewish people.

In a few days, as we do at every Seder, we’ll break and hide a piece of matzoh.  It’s a great way to entertain the kids.  Malia and Sasha, even though they are getting older, they still enjoy it — and there are a lot of good places to hide it in the White House.  (Laughter.)  But on a much deeper level, it speaks to the scope of our human experience — how parts of our lives can be broken while other parts can be elusive; how we can never give up searching for the things that make us whole.  And few know this better than the Jewish people.

After slavery and decades in the wilderness and with Moses gone, the future of the Israelites was in doubt.  But with Joshua as their guide, they pushed on to victory.  After the First Temple was destroyed, it seemed Jerusalem was lost.  But with courage and resolve, the Second Temple reestablished the Jewish presence.  After centuries of persecution and pogroms, the Shoah aimed to eliminate the entire Jewish people.  But the gates of the camps flew open, and there emerged the ultimate rebuke to hate and to ignorance — survivors would live and love again.

When the moment of Israel’s independence was met by aggression on all sides, it was unclear whether this nation would survive.  But with heroism and sacrifice, the State of Israel not only endured, but thrived.  And during six days in June and Yom Kippur one October, it seemed as though all you had built might be lost.  But when the guns fell silent it was clear — “the nation of Israel lives.”

As I said in my speech earlier today, this story — from slavery to salvation, of overcoming even the most overwhelming odds — is a message that’s inspired the world.  And that includes Jewish Americans but also African Americans, who have so often had to deal with their own challenges, but with whom you have stood shoulder to shoulder.

African Americans and Jewish Americans marched together at Selma and Montgomery, with rabbis carrying the Torah as they walked.  They boarded buses for freedom rides together.  They bled together.  They gave their lives together — Jewish Americans like Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner alongside  African American, James Chaney.

Because of their sacrifice, because of the struggle of generations in both our countries, we can come together tonight, in freedom and in security.  So if I can paraphrase the Psalm — they turned our mourning into dancing; they changed our sack cloths into robes of joy.

And this evening, I’d like to close with the words of two leaders who brought us some of this joy.  Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel was born in Poland and lost his mother and sisters to the Nazis.  He came to America.  He raised his voice for social justice.  He marched with Martin Luther King.  And he spoke of the State of Israel in words that could well describe the struggle for equality in America.  “Our very existence is a witness that man must live toward redemption,” he said, and “that history is not always made by man alone.”

Rabbi Joachim Prinz was born in Germany, expelled by the Nazis and found refuge in America, and he built support for the new State of Israel.  And on that August day in 1963, he joined Dr. King at the March on Washington.  And this is what Rabbi Prinz said to the crowd:

“In the realm of the spirit, our fathers taught us thousands of years ago that when God created man, he created him as everybody’s neighbor.  Neighbor is not a geographic concept.  It is a moral concept.  It means our collective responsibility for the preservation of man’s dignity and integrity.”

President Peres, Prime Minister Netanyahu, friends — our very existence, our presence here tonight, is a testament that all things are possible, even those things that, in moments of darkness and doubt, may seem elusive.  The stories of our peoples teach us to never stop searching for the things — the justice and the peace — that make us whole.  And so we go forward together, with confidence, we’ll know that while our countries may be separated by a great ocean, in the realm of the spirit we will always be neighbors and friends.

I very humbly accept this award, understanding that I’m accepting it on behalf of the American people, who are joined together with you.

May God bless you and may He watch over our two great nations.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

END
8:44 P.M. IST

Political Headlines March 21, 2013: President Barack Obama in Israel Speech pleads for renewed Mideast peace talks

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama pleads for renewed Mideast peace talks

Source: Washington Post, 3-21-13

President Obama made an impassioned appeal Thursday for renewed peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians, urging each side to compromise on key issues so as to sideline extremists who “thrive on conflict.”…READ MORE

Political Headlines March 21, 2013: President Barack Obama Lays Out Case for Israel to Revive Peace Talks in Israel Speech

POLITICAL HEADLINES

https://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/pol_headlines.jpg?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama Lays Out Case for Israel to Revive Peace Talks

Source: NYT, 3-21-13

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press

Laying out his case for a future Israel at peace with the Palestinians, President Obama delivered an enthusiastically welcomed speech on Thursday before an audience of youthful Israelis in Jerusalem, assuring them of America’s strong support but asking them to empathize with their Israeli-occupied neighbors and “look at the world through their eyes.”…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency March 21, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speech to the People of Israel at the Jerusalem International Convention Center

POLITICAL BUZZ

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks of President Barack Obama To the People of Israel

Source: WH, 3-21-13 

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Photo Source: Haaretz

Jerusalem International Convention Center

Jerusalem

4:37 P.M. IST

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you so much. Well, it is a great honor to be with you here in Jerusalem, and I’m so grateful for the welcome that I’ve received from the people of Israel.  Thank you.  (Applause.)  I bring with me the support of the American people — (applause) — and the friendship that binds us together.  (Applause.)

Over the last two days, I’ve reaffirmed the bonds between our countries with Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Peres. I’ve borne witness to the ancient history of the Jewish people at the Shrine of the Book, and I’ve seen Israel’s shining future in your scientists and your entrepreneurs.  This is a nation of museums and patents, timeless holy sites and ground-breaking innovation.  Only in Israel could you see the Dead Sea Scrolls and the place where the technology on board the Mars Rover originated at the same time.  (Applause.)

But what I’ve most looked forward to is the ability to speak directly to you, the Israeli people — especially so many young people who are here today — (applause) — to talk about the history that brought us here today, and the future that you will make in the years to come.

Now, I know that in Israel’s vibrant democracy, every word, every gesture is carefully scrutinized.  (Laughter.)  But I want to clear something up just so you know — any drama between me and my friend, Bibi, over the years was just a plot to create material for Eretz Nehederet.  (Applause.)  That’s the only thing that was going on.  We just wanted to make sure the writers had good material.  (Laughter.)

I also know that I come to Israel on the eve of a sacred holiday — the celebration of Passover.  And that is where I would like to begin today.

Just a few days from now, Jews here in Israel and around the world will sit with family and friends at the Seder table, and celebrate with songs, wine and symbolic foods.  After enjoying Seders with family and friends in Chicago and on the campaign trail, I’m proud that I’ve now brought this tradition into the White House.  (Applause.)  I did so because I wanted my daughters to experience the Haggadah, and the story at the center of Passover that makes this time of year so powerful.

It’s a story of centuries of slavery, and years of wandering in the desert; a story of perseverance amidst persecution, and faith in God and the Torah.  It’s a story about finding freedom in your own land.  And for the Jewish people, this story is central to who you’ve become.  But it’s also a story that holds within it the universal human experience, with all of its suffering, but also all of its salvation.

It’s a part of the three great religions — Judaism, Christianity, and Islam — that trace their origins to Abraham, and see Jerusalem as sacred.  And it’s a story that’s inspired communities across the globe, including me and my fellow Americans.

In the United States — a nation made up of people who crossed oceans to start anew — we’re naturally drawn to the idea of finding freedom in our land.  To African Americans, the story of the Exodus was perhaps the central story, the most powerful image about emerging from the grip of bondage to reach for liberty and human dignity — a tale that was carried from slavery through the Civil Rights Movement into today.

For generations, this promise helped people weather poverty and persecution, while holding on to the hope that a better day was on the horizon.  For me, personally, growing up in far-flung parts of the world and without firm roots, the story spoke to a yearning within every human being for a home.  (Applause.)

Of course, even as we draw strength from the story of God’s will and His gift of freedom expressed on Passover, we also know that here on Earth we must bear our responsibilities in an imperfect world.  That means accepting our measure of sacrifice and struggle, just like previous generations.  It means us working through generation after generation on behalf of that ideal of freedom.

As Dr. Martin Luther King said on the day before he was killed, “I may not get there with you.  But I want you to know that we, as a people, will get to the promised land.”  (Applause.)  So just as Joshua carried on after Moses, the work goes on for all of you, the Joshua Generation, for justice and dignity; for opportunity and freedom.

For the Jewish people, the journey to the promise of the State of Israel wound through countless generations.  It involved centuries of suffering and exile, prejudice and pogroms and even genocide.  Through it all, the Jewish people sustained their unique identity and traditions, as well as a longing to return home.  And while Jews achieved extraordinary success in many parts of the world, the dream of true freedom finally found its full expression in the Zionist idea — to be a free people in your homeland.  That’s why I believe that Israel is rooted not just in history and tradition, but also in a simple and profound idea — the idea that people deserve to be free in a land of their own.  (Applause.)

Over the last 65 years, when Israel has been at its best, Israelis have demonstrated that responsibility does not end when you reach the promised land, it only begins.  And so Israel has been a refuge for the diaspora — welcoming Jews from Europe, from the former Soviet Union, from Ethiopia, from North Africa.  (Applause.)

Israel has built a prosperous nation — through kibbutzeem that made the desert bloom, business that broadened the middle class, innovators who reached new frontiers, from the smallest microchip to the orbits of space.  Israel has established a thriving democracy, with a spirited civil society and proud political parties, and a tireless free press, and a lively public debate -– “lively” may even be an understatement.  (Applause.)

And Israel has achieved all this even as it’s overcome relentless threats to its security — through the courage of the Israel Defense Forces, and the citizenry that is so resilient in the face of terror.

This is the story of Israel.  This is the work that has brought the dreams of so many generations to life.  And every step of the way, Israel has built unbreakable bonds of friendship with my country, the United States of America.  (Applause.)

Those ties began only 11 minutes after Israeli independence, when the United States was the first nation to recognize the State of Israel.  (Applause.)  As President Truman said in explaining his decision to recognize Israel, he said, “I believe it has a glorious future before it not just as another sovereign nation, but as an embodiment of the great ideals of our civilization.”  And since then, we’ve built a friendship that advances our shared interests.

Together, we share a commitment to security for our citizens and the stability of the Middle East and North Africa.  Together, we share a focus on advancing economic growth around the globe, and strengthening the middle class within our own countries.  Together, we share a stake in the success of democracy.

But the source of our friendship extends beyond mere interests, just as it has transcended political parties and individual leaders.  America is a nation of immigrants.  America is strengthened by diversity.  America is enriched by faith.  We are governed not simply by men and women, but by laws.  We’re fueled by entrepreneurship and innovation, and we are defined by a democratic discourse that allows each generation to reimagine and renew our union once more.  So in Israel, we see values that we share, even as we recognize what makes us different.  That is an essential part of our bond.

Now, I stand here today mindful that for both our nations, these are some complicated times.  We have difficult issues to work through within our own countries, and we face dangers and upheaval around the world.  And when I look at young people within the United States, I think about the choices that they must make in their lives to define who we’ll be as a nation in this 21st century, particularly as we emerge from two wars and the worst recession since the Great Depression.  But part of the reason I like talking to young people is because no matter how great the challenges are, their idealism, their energy, their ambition always gives me hope.  (Applause.)

And I see the same spirit in the young people here today.  (Applause.)  I believe that you will shape our future.  And given the ties between our countries, I believe your future is bound to ours.  (Audience interruption.)

No, no — this is part of the lively debate that we talked about.  (Applause.)  This is good.  You know, I have to say we actually arranged for that, because it made me feel at home.  (Laughter.)  I wouldn’t feel comfortable if I didn’t have at least one heckler.  (Laughter.)

I’d like to focus on how we — and when I say “we,” in particular young people — can work together to make progress in three areas that will define our times — security, peace and prosperity.  (Applause.)

Let me begin with security.  I’m proud that the security relationship between the United States and Israel has never been stronger.  Never.  (Applause.)  More exercises between our militaries; more exchanges among our political and military and intelligence officials than ever before; the largest program to date to help you retain your qualitative military edge.  These are the facts.  These aren’t my opinions, these are facts.  But, to me, this is not simply measured on a balance sheet.  I know that here, in Israel, security is something personal.

Here’s what I think about when I consider these issues.  When I consider Israel’s security, I think about children like Osher Twito, who I met in Sderot — (applause) — children the same age as my own daughters who went to bed at night fearful that a rocket would land in their bedroom simply because of who they are and where they live.  (Applause.)

That reality is why we’ve invested in the Iron Dome system to save countless lives — because those children deserve to sleep better at night.  (Applause.)  That’s why we’ve made it clear, time and again, that Israel cannot accept rocket attacks from Gaza, and we have stood up for Israel’s right to defend itself.  (Applause.)  And that’s why Israel has a right to expect Hamas to renounce violence and recognize Israel’s right to exist. (Applause.)

When I think about Israel’s security, I think about five Israelis who boarded a bus in Bulgaria, who were blown up because of where they came from; robbed of the ability to live, and love, and raise families.  That’s why every country that values justice should call Hizbollah what it truly is — a terrorist organization.  (Applause.)  Because the world cannot tolerate an organization that murders innocent civilians, stockpiles rockets to shoot at cities, and supports the massacre of men and women and children in Syria right now.  (Applause.)

The fact that Hizbollah’s ally — the Assad regime — has stockpiles of chemical weapons only heightens the urgency.  We will continue to cooperate closely to guard against that danger. I’ve made it clear to Bashar al-Assad and all who follow his orders:  We will not tolerate the use of chemical weapons against the Syrian people, or the transfer of those weapons to terrorists.  The world is watching; we will hold you accountable. (Applause.)

The Syrian people have the right to be freed from the grip of a dictator who would rather kill his own people than relinquish power.  (Applause.)  Assad must go so that Syria’s future can begin.  Because true stability in Syria depends upon establishing a government that is responsible to its people — one that protects all communities within its borders, while making peace with countries beyond them.

These are the things I think about when I think about Israel’s security.  When I consider Israel’s security, I also think about a people who have a living memory of the Holocaust, faced with the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iranian government that has called for Israel’s destruction.  It’s no wonder Israelis view this as an existential threat.  But this is not simply a challenge for Israel — it is a danger for the entire world, including the United States.  (Applause.)  A nuclear-armed Iran would raise the risk of nuclear terrorism.  It would undermine the non-proliferation regime.  It would spark an arms race in a volatile region.  And it would embolden a government that has shown no respect for the rights of its own people or the responsibilities of nations.

That’s why America has built a coalition to increase the cost to Iran of failing to meet their obligations.  The Iranian government is now under more pressure than ever before, and that pressure is increasing.  It is isolated.  Its economy is in dire straits.  Its leadership is divided.  And its position — in the region, and the world — has only grown weaker.  (Applause.)

I do believe that all of us have an interest in resolving this issue peacefully.  (Applause.)  Strong and principled diplomacy is the best way to ensure that the Iranian government forsakes nuclear weapons.  (Applause.)  Peace is far more preferable to war.  And the inevitable costs, the unintended consequences that would come with war means that we have to do everything we can to try to resolve this diplomatically.  Because of the cooperation between our governments, we know that there remains time to pursue a diplomatic resolution.  That’s what America will do, with clear eyes — working with a world that’s united, and with the sense of urgency that’s required.

But Iran must know this time is not unlimited.  And I’ve made the position of the United States of America clear:  Iran must not get a nuclear weapon.  This is not a danger that can be contained, and as President, I’ve said all options are on the table for achieving our objectives.  America will do what we must to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran.  (Applause.)

For young Israelis, I know that these issues of security are rooted in an experience that is even more fundamental than the pressing threat of the day.  You live in a neighborhood where many of your neighbors have rejected the right of your nation to exist.  Your grandparents had to risk their lives and all that they had to make a place for themselves in this world.  Your parents lived through war after war to ensure the survival of the Jewish state.  Your children grow up knowing that people they’ve never met may hate them because of who they are, in a region that is full of turmoil and changing underneath your feet.

So that’s what I think about when Israel is faced with these challenges –- that sense of an Israel that is surrounded by many in this region who still reject it, and many in the world who refuse to accept it.  And that’s why the security of the Jewish people in Israel is so important.  It cannot be taken for granted.

But make no mistake — those who adhere to the ideology of rejecting Israel’s right to exist, they might as well reject the earth beneath them or the sky above, because Israel is not going anywhere.  (Applause.)  And today, I want to tell you — particularly the young people — so that there’s no mistake here, so long as there is a United States of America — Atem lo levad. You are not alone.  (Applause.)

The question is what kind of future Israel will look forward to.  Israel is not going anywhere — but especially for the young people in this audience, the question is what does its future hold?  And that brings me to the subject of peace.  (Applause.)

I know Israel has taken risks for peace.  Brave leaders — Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Rabin — reached treaties with two of your neighbors.  You made credible proposals to the Palestinians at Annapolis.  You withdrew from Gaza and Lebanon, and then faced terror and rockets.  Across the region, you’ve extended a hand of friendship and all too often you’ve been confronted with rejection and, in some cases, the ugly reality of anti-Semitism. So I believe that the Israeli people do want peace, and I also understand why too many Israelis — maybe an increasing number, maybe a lot of young people here today — are skeptical that it can be achieved.

But today, Israel is at a crossroads.  It can be tempting to put aside the frustrations and sacrifices that come with the pursuit of peace, particularly when Iron Dome repels rockets, barriers keep out suicide bombers.  There’s so many other pressing issues that demand your attention.  And I know that only Israelis can make the fundamental decisions about your country’s future.  (Applause.)  I recognize that.

I also know, by the way, that not everyone in this hall will agree with what I have to say about peace.  I recognize that there are those who are not simply skeptical about peace, but question its underlying premise, have a different vision for Israel’s future.  And that’s part of a democracy.  That’s part of the discourse between our two countries.  I recognize that.  But I also believe it’s important to be open and honest, especially with your friends.  I also believe that.  (Applause.)

Politically, given the strong bipartisan support for Israel in America, the easiest thing for me to do would be to put this issue aside — just express unconditional support for whatever Israel decides to do — that would be the easiest political path. But I want you to know that I speak to you as a friend who is deeply concerned and committed to your future, and I ask you to consider three points.

First, peace is necessary.  (Applause.)  I believe that.  I believe that peace is the only path to true security.  (Applause.)  You have the opportunity to be the generation that permanently secures the Zionist dream, or you can face a growing challenge to its future.  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 realization of an independent and viable Palestine.  (Applause.)  That is true.

There are other factors involved.  Given the frustration in the international community about this conflict, Israel needs to reverse an undertow of isolation.  And given the march of technology, the only way to truly protect the Israeli people over the long term is through the absence of war.  Because no wall is high enough and no Iron Dome is strong enough or perfect enough to stop every enemy that is intent on doing so from inflicting harm.  (Applause.)

And this truth is more pronounced given the changes sweeping the Arab world.  I understand that with the uncertainty in the region — people in the streets, changes in leadership, the rise of non-secular parties in politics — it’s tempting to turn inward, because the situation outside of Israel seems so chaotic. But this is precisely the time to respond to the wave of revolution with a resolve and commitment for peace.  (Applause.) Because as more governments respond to popular will, the days when Israel could seek peace simply with a handful of autocratic leaders, those days are over.  Peace will have to be made among peoples, not just governments.  (Applause.)

No one — no single step can change overnight what lies in the hearts and minds of millions.  No single step is going to erase years of history and propaganda.  But progress with the Palestinians is a powerful way to begin, while sidelining extremists who thrive on conflict and thrive on division.  It would make a difference.  (Applause.)

So peace is necessary.  But peace is also just.  Peace is also just.  There is no question that Israel has faced Palestinian factions who turned to terror, leaders who missed historic opportunities.  That is all true.  And that’s why security must be at the center of any agreement.  And there is no question that the only path to peace is through negotiations — which is why, despite the criticism we’ve received, the United States will oppose unilateral efforts to bypass negotiations through the United Nations.  It has to be done by the parties.  (Applause.)  But the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination, their right to justice, must also be recognized.  (Applause.)

Put yourself in their shoes.  Look at the world through their eyes.  It is not fair that a Palestinian child cannot grow up in a state of their own.  (Applause.)  Living their entire lives with the presence of a foreign army that controls the movements not just of those young people but their parents, their grandparents, every single day.  It’s not just when settler violence against Palestinians goes unpunished.  (Applause.)  It’s not right to prevent Palestinians from farming their lands; or restricting a student’s ability to move around the West Bank; or displace Palestinian families from their homes.  (Applause.)  Neither occupation nor expulsion is the answer.  (Applause.)  Just as Israelis built a state in their homeland, Palestinians have a right to be a free people in their own land.  (Applause.)

I’m going off script here for a second, but before I came here, I met with a group of young Palestinians from the age of 15 to 22.  And talking to them, they weren’t that different from my daughters.  They weren’t that different from your daughters or sons.  I honestly believe that if any Israeli parent sat down with those kids, they’d say, I want these kids to succeed; I want them to prosper.  (Applause.)  I want them to have opportunities just like my kids do.  I believe that’s what Israeli parents would want for these kids if they had a chance to listen to them and talk to them.  (Applause.)  I believe that.

Now, only you can determine what kind of democracy you will have.  But remember that as you make these decisions, you will define not simply the future of your relationship with the Palestinians — you will define the future of Israel as well.  (Applause.)

As Ariel Sharon said — I’m quoting him — “It is impossible to have a Jewish democratic state, 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.”  (Applause.)  Or, from a different perspective, I think of what the novelist David Grossman said shortly after losing his son, as he described the necessity of peace — “A peace of no choice” he said, “must be approached with the same determination and creativity as one approaches a war of no choice.”  (Applause.)

Now, Israel cannot be expected to negotiate with anyone who is dedicated to its destruction.  (Applause.)  But while I know you have had differences with the Palestinian Authority, I genuinely believe that you do have a true partner in President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad.  (Applause.)  I believe that.  And they have a track record to prove it.  Over the last few years, they have built institutions and maintained security on the West Bank in ways that few could have imagined just a few years ago.  So many Palestinians — including young people — have rejected violence as a means of achieving their aspirations.

There is an opportunity there, there’s a window — which brings me to my third point:  Peace is possible.  It is possible. (Applause.)  I’m not saying it’s guaranteed.  I can’t even say that it is more likely than not.  But it is possible.  I know it doesn’t seem that way.  There are always going to be reasons to avoid risk.  There are costs for failure.  There will always be extremists who provide an excuse not to act.

I know there must be something exhausting about endless talks about talks, and daily controversies, and just the grinding status quo.  And I’m sure there’s a temptation just to say, “Ah, enough.  Let me focus on my small corner of the world and my family and my job and what I can control.”  But it’s possible.

Negotiations will be necessary, but there’s little secret about where they must lead — two states for two peoples.  Two states for two peoples.  (Applause.)

There will be differences about how to get there.  There are going to be hard choices along the way.  Arab states must adapt to a world that has changed.  The days when they could condemn Israel to distract their people from a lack of opportunity, or government corruption or mismanagement — those days need to be over.  (Applause.)  Now is the time for the Arab world to take steps toward normalizing relations with Israel.  (Applause.)

Meanwhile, Palestinians must recognize that Israel will be a Jewish state and that Israelis have the right to insist upon their security.  (Applause.)  Israelis must recognize that continued settlement activity is counterproductive to the cause of peace, and that an independent Palestine must be viable with real borders that have to be drawn.  (Applause.)

I’ve suggested principles on territory and security that I believe can be the basis for these talks.  But for the moment, put aside the plans and the process.  I ask you, instead, to think about what can be done to build trust between people.

Four years ago, I stood in Cairo in front of an audience of young people — politically, religiously, they must seem a world away.  But the things they want, they’re not so different from what the young people here want.  They want the ability to make their own decisions and to get an education, get a good job; to worship God in their own way; to get married; to raise a family. The same is true of those young Palestinians that I met with this morning.  The same is true for young Palestinians who yearn for a better life in Gaza.

That’s where peace begins — not just in the plans of leaders, but in the hearts of people.  Not just in some carefully designed process, but in the daily connections — that sense of empathy that takes place among those who live together in this land and in this sacred city of Jerusalem.  (Applause.)

And let me say this as a politician — I can promise you this, political leaders will never take risks if the people do not push them to take some risks.  You must create the change that you want to see.  (Applause.)  Ordinary people can accomplish extraordinary things.

I know this is possible.  Look to the bridges being built in business and civil society by some of you here today.  Look at the young people who’ve not yet learned a reason to mistrust, or those young people who’ve learned to overcome a legacy of mistrust that they inherited from their parents, because they simply recognize that we hold more hopes in common than fears that drive us apart.  Your voices must be louder than those who would drown out hope.  Your hopes must light the way forward.

Look to a future in which Jews and Muslims and Christians can all live in peace and greater prosperity in this Holy Land.  (Applause.)  Believe in that.  And most of all, look to the future that you want for your own children — a future in which a Jewish, democratic, vibrant state is protected and accepted for this time and for all time.  (Applause.)

There will be many who say this change is not possible, but remember this — Israel is the most powerful country in this region.  Israel has the unshakeable support of the most powerful country in the world.  (Applause.)  Israel is not going anywhere. Israel has the wisdom to see the world as it is, but — this is in your nature — Israel also has the courage to see the world as it should be.  (Applause.)

Ben Gurion once said, “In Israel, in order to be a realist you must believe in miracles.”  Sometimes, the greatest miracle is recognizing that the world can change.  That’s a lesson that the world has learned from the Jewish people.

And that brings me to the final area that I’ll focus on: prosperity, and Israel’s broader role in the world.  I know that all the talk about security and peace can sometimes seem to dominate the headlines, but that’s not where people live.  And every day, even amidst the threats that you face, Israelis are defining themselves by the opportunities that you’re creating.

Through talent and hard work, Israelis have put this small country at the forefront of the global economy.

Israelis understand the value of education and have produced 10 Nobel laureates.  (Applause.)  Israelis understand the power of invention, and your universities educate engineers and inventors.  And that spirit has led to economic growth and human progress — solar power and electric cars, bandages and prosthetic limbs that save lives, stem cell research and new drugs that treat disease, cell phones and computer technology that changed the way people around the world live.

So if people want to see the future of the world economy, they should look at Tel Aviv, home to hundreds of start-ups and research centers.  (Applause.)  Israelis are so active on social media that every day seemed to bring a different Facebook campaign about where I should give this speech.  (Laughter and applause.)

That innovation is just as important to the relationship between the United States and Israel as our security cooperation. Our first free trade agreement in the world was reached with Israel, nearly three decades ago.  (Applause.)  Today the trade between our two countries is at $40 billion every year.  (Applause.)  More importantly, that partnership is creating new products and medical treatments; it’s pushing new frontiers of science and exploration.

That’s the kind of relationship that Israel should have — and could have — with every country in the world.  Already, we see how that innovation could reshape this region.  There’s a program here in Jerusalem that brings together young Israelis and Palestinians to learn vital skills in technology and business.  An Israeli and Palestinian have started a venture capital fund to finance Palestinian start-ups.  Over 100 high-tech companies have found a home on the West Bank — which speaks to the talent and entrepreneurial spirit of the Palestinian people.

One of the great ironies of what’s happening in the broader region is that so much of what people are yearning for — education, entrepreneurship, the ability to start a business without paying a bribe, the ability to connect to the global economy — those are things that can be found here in Israel. This should be a hub for thriving regional trade, and an engine for opportunity.  (Applause.)

Israel is already a center for innovation that helps power the global economy.  And I believe that all of that potential for prosperity can be enhanced with greater security, enhanced with lasting peace.  (Applause.)

Here, in this small strip of land that has been the center of so much of the world’s history, so much triumph and so much tragedy, Israelis have built something that few could have imagined 65 years ago.  Tomorrow, I will pay tribute to that history — at the grave of Herzl, a man who had the foresight to see the future of the Jewish people had to be reconnected to their past; at the grave of Rabin, who understood that Israel’s victories in war had to be followed by the battles for peace; at Yad Vashem, where the world is reminded of the cloud of evil that can descend on the Jewish people and all of humanity if we ever fail to be vigilant.

We bear all that history on our shoulders.  We carry all that history in our hearts.  Today, as we face the twilight of Israel’s founding generation, you — the young people of Israel

— must now claim its future.  It falls to you to write the next chapter in the great story of this great nation.

And as the President of a country that you can count on as your greatest friend — (applause) — I am confident that you can help us find the promise in the days that lie ahead.  And as a man who’s been inspired in my own life by that timeless calling within the Jewish experience — tikkun olam — (applause) — I am hopeful that we can draw upon what’s best in ourselves to meet the challenges that will come; to win the battles for peace in the wake of so much war; and to do the work of repairing this world.  (Applause.)  That’s your job.  That’s my job.  That’s the task of all of us.

May God bless you.  May God bless Israel.  May God bless the United States of America.  Toda raba.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

END

5:27 P.M. IST

Political Headlines March 21, 2013: President Barack Obama Faces Hecklers, Gets Standing Ovation for Israel Speech in Jerusalem

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

President Obama Faces Hecklers, Gets Standing Ovation in Jerusalem

Source: ABC News Radio, 3-21-13

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

Speaking to students in Jerusalem, President Obama reaffirmed the friendship between the United States and Israel. During his speech, which highlighted the “vibrant democracy” and history of Israel, the president jokes about being interrupted by hecklers….READ MORE

Political Headlines March 21, 2013: Gaza rockets hit southern Israel town cited by President Barack Obama

POLITICAL HEADLINES

https://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/pol_headlines.jpg?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Gaza rockets hit southern Israel town cited by Obama

Source: Reuters, 3-21-13

Two rockets fired from the Gaza Strip landed on Thursday in a southern Israeli border town that U.S. President Barack Obama mentioned in a speech on his arrival in Israel a day earlier….READ MORE

Political Headlines March 20, 2013: In Israel, President Barack Obama Vows to Prevent Nuclear Iran

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

In Israel, Obama Vows to Prevent Nuclear Iran

Source: ABC News Radio, 3-20-13

Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images

Seeking to reassure the United States’ primary ally in the Middle East, President Obama Wednesday told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that his administration remains committed to doing “what is necessary” to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

“We do not have a policy of containment when it comes to a nuclear Iran. Our policy is to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon,” Obama told reporters at a joint press conference after a series of closed-door meetings with Israeli leaders….READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency March 20, 2013: President Barack Obama & Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel’s Remarks in Joint Press Conference Transcript

POLITICAL BUZZ

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel in Joint Press Conference

Source: WH, 3-20-13

President Obama Holds a Press Conference with Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel

President Obama Holds a Press Conference with Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel

Prime Minister’s Residence, Jerusalem

8:30 P.M. IDT

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Mr. President, Barack, it’s a great pleasure for me to host you here in Jerusalem. You’ve graciously hosted me many times in Washington, so I’m very pleased to have this opportunity to reciprocate. I hope that the goodwill and warmth of the people of Israel has already made you feel at home.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Very much so.

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: We had an opportunity today to begin discussing the wide range of issues that are critical to both our countries. And foremost among these is Iran’s relentless pursuit of nuclear weapons. Mr. President, you have made it clear that you are determined to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. I appreciate your forthright position on this point. I also appreciate that you have noted — that you have acted to thwart the threat both through determined diplomacy and strong sanctions that are getting stronger yet.

Notwithstanding our joint efforts and your great success in mobilizing the international community, diplomacy and sanctions so far have not stopped Iran’s nuclear program. And as you know, my view is that in order to stop Iran’s nuclear programs peacefully, diplomacy and sanctions must be augmented by a clear and credible threat of military action.

In this regard, Mr. President, I want to thank you once again for always making clear that Israel must be able to defend itself, by itself, against any threat. I deeply appreciate those words because they speak to the great transformation that has occurred in the life of the Jewish people with the rebirth of the Jewish state. The Jewish people only two generations ago were once a powerless people, defenseless against those who sought our destruction. Today we have both the right and the capability to defend ourselves.

And you said earlier today, the essence of the State of Israel, the essence of the rebirth of the Jewish state is we’ve fulfilled the age-old dream of the Jewish people to be masters of our fate in our own state. I think that was a wonderful line that I will cherish because it really gets down to the essence of what this state is about. That is why I know that you appreciate that Israel can never cede the right to defend ourselves to others, even to the greatest of our friends. And Israel has no better friend than the United States of America. So I look forward to continuing to work with you to address what is an existential threat to Israel and a grave threat to the peace and security of the world.

Mr. President, we discussed today the situation in Syria. We share the goal of seeing a stable and peaceful Syria emerge from the carnage that we have witnessed over the last two years. That carnage has already resulted in the deaths of over 70,000 people and the suffering of millions. We also share a determination to prevent the deadly arsenal of weapons within Syria from falling into the hands of terrorist hands. And I have no doubt that the best way to do that is to work closely with the United States and other countries in the region to address this challenge. And that is what we intend to do.

Finally, Mr. President, your visit gave us an opportunity to try to find a way to advance peace between Israelis and Palestinians. My new government was sworn in two days ago. I know there have been questions regarding what the policy of the new government will be towards peace with the Palestinians. So let me be clear. Israel remains fully committed to peace and to the solution of two states for two peoples. We extend our hand in peace and in friendship to the Palestinian people.

I hope that your visit, along with the visit of Secretary of State Kerry, will help us turn a page in our relations with the Palestinians. Let us sit down at the negotiating table. Let us put aside all preconditions. Let us work together to achieve the historic compromise that will end our conflict once and for all.

Let me conclude, Mr. President, on a personal note. I know how valuable the time and the energy is of the American President, of yourself. This is the 10th time that we have met since you became President and since I became Prime Minister. You’ve chosen Israel as your first venue in your visit, your foreign visit in your second term. I want to thank you for the investment you have made in our relationship and in strengthening the friendship and alliance between our two countries. It is deeply, deeply appreciated.

You’ve come here on the eve of Passover. I’ve always considered it as our most cherished holiday. It celebrates the Jewish people’s passage from slavery to freedom. Through the ages it has also inspired people struggling for freedom, including the Founding Fathers of the United States. So it’s a profound honor to host you, the leader of the free world, at this historic time in our ancient capital.

Mr. President, welcome to Israel. Welcome to Jerusalem. (Applause.)

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Thank you.

Well, thank you, Prime Minister Netanyahu, for your kind words and for your wonderful welcome here today. And I want to express a special thanks to Sara as well as your two sons for their warmth and hospitality. It was wonderful to see them. They are — I did inform the Prime Minister that they are very good-looking young men who clearly got their looks from their mother. (Laughter.)

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Well, I can say the same of your daughters. (Laughter.)

PRESIDENT OBAMA: This is true. Our goal is to improve our gene pool by marrying women who are better than we are.

Mr. Prime Minister, I want to begin by congratulating you on the formation of your new government. In the United States, we work hard to find agreement between our two major parties. Here in Israel, you have to find consensus among many more. And few legislatures can compete with the intensity of the Knesset. But all of this reflects the thriving nature of Israel’s democracy.

As Bibi mentioned, this is our 10th meeting. We’ve spent more time together, working together, than I have with any leader. And this speaks to the closeness of our two nations, the interests and the values that we share, and the depth and breadth of the ties between our two peoples.

As leaders, our most solemn responsibility is the security of our people — that’s job number one. My job as President of the United States, first and foremost, is to keep the American people safe. Bibi, as Prime Minister, your first task is to keep the people of Israel safe. And Israel’s security needs are truly unique, as I’ve seen myself. In past trips I visited villages near the Blue Line. I’ve walked through Israeli homes devastated by Hezbollah rockets. I’ve stood in Sderot, and met with children who simply want to grow up free from fear. And flying in today, I saw again how Israel’s security can be measured in mere miles and minutes.

As President, I’ve, therefore, made it clear America’s commitment to the security of the State of Israel is a solemn obligation, and the security of Israel is non-negotiable.

Today, our military and intelligence personnel cooperate more closely than ever before. We conduct more joint exercises and training than ever before. We’re providing more security assistance and advanced technology to Israel than ever before. And that includes more support for the missile defenses like Iron Dome, which I saw today and which has saved so many Israeli lives.

In short — and I don’t think this is just my opinion, I think, Bibi, you would share this — America’s support for Israel’s security is unprecedented, and the alliance between our nations has never been stronger.

That’s the sturdy foundation we built on today as we addressed a range of shared challenges. As part of our long-term commitment to Israel’s security, the Prime Minister and I agreed to begin discussions on extending military assistance to Israel. Our current agreement lasts through 2017, and we’ve directed our teams to start working on extending it for the years beyond.

I’m also pleased to announce that we will take steps to ensure that there’s no interruption of funding for Iron Dome. As a result of decisions that I made last year, Israel will receive approximately $200 million this fiscal year and we will continue to work with Congress on future funding of Iron Dome. These are further reminders that we will help to preserve Israel’s qualitative military edge so that Israel can defend itself, by itself, against any threat.

We also discussed the way forward to a two-state solution between Israelis and Palestinians. And I very much welcomed Bibi’s words before I spoke. I’ll be meeting with President Abbas tomorrow, and I will have more to say on this topic in the speech that I deliver to the Israeli people tomorrow. But for now, let me just reiterate that a central element of a lasting peace must be a strong and secure Jewish state, where Israel’s security concerns are met, alongside a sovereign and independent Palestinian state.

In this regard, I’d note that last year was a milestone — the first year in four decades when not a single Israeli citizen lost their life because of terrorism emanating from the West Bank. It’s a reminder that Israel has a profound interest in a strong and effective Palestinian Authority. And as the Prime Minister’s new government begins its work, we’ll continue to look for steps that both Israelis and Palestinians can take to build trust and confidence upon which lasting peace will depend.

We also reaffirmed the importance of ensuring Israel’s security given the changes and uncertainty in the region. As the United States supports the Egyptian people in their historic transition to democracy, we continue to underscore the necessity of Egypt contributing to regional security, preventing Hamas from rearming and upholding its peace treaty with Israel.

With respect to Syria, the United States continues to work with allies and friends and the Syrian opposition to hasten the end of Assad’s rule, to stop the violence against the Syrian people, and begin a transition toward a new government that respects the rights of all its people.

Assad has lost his legitimacy to lead by attacking the Syrian people with almost every conventional weapon in his arsenal, including Scud missiles. And we have been clear that the use of chemical weapons against the Syrian people would be a serious and tragic mistake. We also share Israel’s grave concern about the transfer of chemical or other weapon systems to terrorists — such as Hezbollah — that might be used against Israel. The Assad regime must understand that they will be held accountable for the use of chemical weapons or their transfer to terrorists.

And finally, we continued our close consultation on Iran. We agree that a nuclear-armed Iran would be a threat to the region, a threat to the world, and potentially an existential threat to Israel. And we agree on our goal. We do not have a policy of containment when it comes to a nuclear Iran. Our policy is to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

We prefer to resolve this diplomatically, and there’s still time to do so. Iran’s leaders must understand, however, that they have to meet their international obligations. And, meanwhile, the international community will continue to increase the pressure on the Iranian government. The United States will continue to consult closely with Israel on next steps. And I will repeat: All options are on the table. We will do what is necessary to prevent Iran from getting the world’s worst weapons.

Meeting none of these challenges will be easy. It will demand the same courage and resolve as those who have preceded us.

And on Friday, I’ll be honored to visit Mount Herzl and pay tribute to the leaders and soldiers who have laid down their lives for Israel. One of them was Yoni Netanyahu. And in one of his letters home, he wrote to his family, “Don’t forget — strength, justice, and staunch resolution are on our side, and that is a great deal.”

Mr. Prime Minister, like families across Israel, you and your family have served and sacrificed to defend your country and to pass it, safe and strong, to your children just as it was passed on to you. Standing here today, I can say with confidence that Israel’s security is guaranteed because it has a great deal on its side, including the unwavering support of the United States of America. (Applause.)

Q  Mr. President, may I ask you about Syria, a practical question and a moral one? Morally, how is it possible that for the last two years, tens of thousands of innocent civilians are being massacred and no one — the world, the United States and you — are doing anything to stop it immediately? On a practical level, you have said today and also in the past that the use of chemical weapons would be a crossing of a red line. It seems like this line was crossed yesterday. What specifically do you intend to do about it?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I’ll answer the question in reverse order, if you don’t mind. I’ll talk about the chemical weapons first and then, the larger question.

With respect to chemical weapons, we intend to investigate thoroughly exactly what happened. Obviously, in Syria right now you’ve got a war zone. You have information that’s filtered out, but we have to make sure that we know exactly what happened — what was the nature of the incident, what can we document, what can we prove. So I’ve instructed my teams to work closely with all of the countries in the region and international organizations and institutions to find out precisely whether or not this red line was crossed.

I will note, without at this point having all the facts before me, that we know the Syrian government has the capacity to carry out chemical weapon attacks. We know that there are those in the Syrian government who have expressed a willingness to use chemical weapons if necessary to protect themselves. I am deeply skeptical of any claim that, in fact, it was the opposition that used chemical weapons. Everybody who knows the facts of the chemical weapon stockpiles inside Syria as well as the Syrian government’s capabilities I think would question those claims. But I know that they’re floating out there right now.

The broader point is, is that once we establish the facts I have made clear that the use of chemical weapons is a game changer. And I won’t make an announcement today about next steps because I think we have to gather the facts. But I do think that when you start seeing weapons that can cause potential devastation and mass casualties and you let that genie out of the bottle, then you are looking potentially at even more horrific scenes than we’ve already seen in Syria. And the international community has to act on that additional information.

But as is always the case when it comes to issues of war and peace, I think having the facts before you act is very important.

More broadly, as I said in my opening statement, I believe that the Assad regime has lost all credibility and legitimacy. I think Assad must go — and I believe he will go. It is incorrect for you to say that we have done nothing. We have helped to mobilize the isolation of the Assad regime internationally. We have supported and recognized the opposition. We have provided hundreds of millions of dollars in support for humanitarian aid. We have worked diligently with other countries in the region to provide additional tools to move towards a political transition within Syria.

If your suggestion is, is that I have not acted unilaterally militarily inside of Syria, well, the response has been — or my response would be that, to the extent possible, I want to make sure that we’re working as an international community to deal with this problem, because I think it’s a world problem, not simply a United States problem, or an Israel problem, or a Turkish problem. It’s a world problem when tens of thousands of people are being slaughtered, including innocent women and children.

And so we will continue to work in an international framework to try to bring about the kind of change that’s necessary in Syria. Secretary Kerry has been working nonstop since he came into his current position to try to help mobilize and organize our overall efforts, and we will continue to push every lever that we have to try to bring about a resolution inside of Syria that respects the rights and the safety and security of all people, regardless of whatever sectarian lines currently divide Syria.

Last point I’ll make, which is probably obvious, is this is not easy. When you start seeing a civil war that has sectarian elements to it, and you’ve got a repressive government that is intent on maintaining power, and you have mistrust that has broken out along sectarian lines, and you have an opposition that has not had the opportunity or time to organize itself both politically as well as militarily, then you end up seeing some of the devastation that you’ve been seeing. And we’re going to do everything we can to continue to prevent it. And I know that the vast majority of our international partners feel the same way.

Q. Yes, thank you. There was some friendly banter between you two gentlemen on the tarmac today about red lines, and I’m wondering how much of a serious matter that actually became in your talks and will be in your talks to come tonight. President Obama has said it will take Iran at least a year to build a bomb. That’s months longer than the Prime Minister believes.

Mr. President, are you asking the Prime Minister to be more patient, to hold off for at least a year on any kind of military action against Iran?

Mr. Prime Minister, has President Obama’s words — have they convinced you that he is putting forth the credible military threat that you have repeatedly asked for, or there’s a need to go further? Thank you.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Bibi, why don’t you go — take a first swing at this.

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Well, first of all, there are so many strips of different colors on the tarmac that we — (laughter) — we did have a joke about that. But obviously this matter is no joke. It relates to our very existence and to something also that the President correctly identified as a grave strategic threat to the United States and to the peace and security of the world.

I’m absolutely convinced that the President is determined to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons. And I appreciate that. And I also appreciate something that he said, which I mentioned in my opening remarks, that the Jewish people have come back to their own country to be the masters of their own fate. And I appreciate the fact that the President has reaffirmed — more than any other President — Israel’s right and duty to defend itself, by itself, against any threat. We just heard those important words now, and I think that sums up our — I would say — our common view.

Iran is a grave threat to Israel, a grave threat to the world — a nuclear Iran. The United States is committed to deal with it. Israel is committed to deal with it. We have different vulnerabilities, obviously, and different capabilities. We take that into account. But what we do maintain — and the President I think is the first to do so — is that Israel has a right to independently defend itself against any threat, including the Iranian threat.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I think the only thing I would add is that our intelligence cooperation on this issue, the consultation between our militaries, our intelligence, is unprecedented, and there is not a lot of light, a lot of daylight between our countries’ assessments in terms of where Iran is right now.

I think that what Bibi alluded to, which is absolutely correct, is each country has to make its own decisions when it comes to the awesome decision to engage in any kind of military action, and Israel is differently situated than the United States. And I would not expect that the Prime Minister would make a decision about his country’s security and defer that to any other country — any more than the United States would defer our decisions about what was important for our national security.

I have shared with Bibi, as I’ve said to the entire world, as I’ve said to the Iranian people and Iranian leaders, that I think there is time to resolve this issue diplomatically. The question is, will Iranian leadership seize that opportunity? Will they walk through that door?

And it would be in everybody’s interests — not just Israel’s interests, not just the United States’ interests — it would be in the interest of the Iranian people if this gets resolved diplomatically. Because the truth of the matter is, is that the most permanent solution to the Iranian situation is ultimately going to be their decision that it is not worth it for them to pursue nuclear weapons. That will be the lasting change. If we can get that, that’s good for everybody, including Iran, because it would allow them to break out of the isolation that has hampered their society and their economic development for many years.

But I don’t know whether they’re going to be willing to take that step. And obviously, their past behavior indicates that, in the words of — or a play on words on what Ronald Reagan said — we can’t even trust yet, much less verify. But we do have to test the proposition that this can be resolved diplomatically. And if it can’t, then I’ve repeated to Bibi what I’ve said publicly, and that is, is that we will leave all options on the table in resolving it.

Q  Mr. Prime Minister, do you agree or disagree with the President’s one-year assessment?

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: We have another question.

Q  Welcome, Mr. President. On your way back to Washington on Friday, what will you consider a successful visit?  Convincing the Israeli leaders that they can rely on you on the Iranian issue, especially that they learned that there are differences between Israel and the United States concerning the enrichment of the Iranian — or convincing both sides — Israelis and the Palestinians — to revive the floundering negotiation, reviving the peace process, the floundering peace process?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, my main goal on this trip has been to have an opportunity to speak directly to the Israeli people at a time when obviously what was already a pretty tough neighborhood has gotten tougher, and let them know that they’ve got a friend in the United States, that we have your back; that we consider Israel’s security of extraordinary importance to us, not just because of the bonds between our peoples but also because of our own national security interest.

In that context, what I have also sought to achieve here is further consultations, building on what we’ve already discussed — as Bibi has just formed a new government, as I am entering my second term — that we continue to have close consultation around some of these shared interests that we’ve already discussed, Iran being obviously a prominent shared concern. I want to make sure that the Israeli people and the Israeli government consistently understand my thinking and how I’m approaching this problem. And I want to understand how the Israeli government and the Prime Minister is approaching this problem to make sure that there are no misunderstandings there.

With respect to the peace process, as I said, I’ll have more to say about this tomorrow. But I think you are absolutely right that over the last year, year and a half, two years, two and a half years, we haven’t gone forward. We haven’t seen the kind of progress that we would like to see.

There’s some elements of good news. I mean, the fact of the matter is, is that even with all that’s been happening in the region, the Palestinian Authority has worked effectively in cooperation with the international community — in part because of some of the training that we, the United States, provided — to do its part in maintaining security in the West Bank. We have seen some progress when it comes to economic development and opportunity for the Palestinian people.

But the truth of the matter is trying to bring this to some sort of clear settlement, a solution that would allow Israelis to feel as if they’ve broken out of the current isolation that they’re in, in this region, that would allow the incredible economic growth that’s taking place inside this country to be a model for trade and commerce and development throughout the region at a time when all these other countries need technology and commerce and jobs for their young people, for Palestinians to feel a sense that they, too, are masters of their own fate, for Israel to feel that the possibilities of rockets raining down on their families has diminished — that kind of solution we have not yet seen.

And so what I want to do is listen, hear from Prime Minister Netanyahu — tomorrow, I’ll have a chance to hear from Abu Mazen — to get a sense from them, how do they see this process moving forward. What are the possibilities and what are the constraints, and how can the United States be helpful? And I purposely did not want to come here and make some big announcement that might not match up with what the realities and possibilities on the ground are. I wanted to spend some time listening before I talked — which my mother always taught me was a good idea.

And so, hopefully — I’ll consider it a success if when I go back on Friday, I’m able to say to myself I have a better understanding of what the constraints are, what the interests of the various parties are, and how the United States can play a constructive role in bringing about a lasting peace and two states living side by side in peace and security.

Q  Thank you, Mr. President; Mr. Prime Minister.

Mr. President, I’m going to follow up a little bit on the peace process. You began your term, your first term, big fanfare — Cairo speech to talk to the Muslim world, the decision to have a Middle East envoy early. You said you weren’t going to let this slip to your second term. We’re in your second term with the Middle East peace process. What went wrong? Why are we further away from a two-state solution? I know you said you want to talk more about this tomorrow, but I am curious. What do you believe went wrong? Did you push Israel too hard? What do you wish you would have done differently?

And, Mr. Prime Minister, I want to help out my colleague over here on the follow-up that he had, which had to do with do you accept the President’s understanding that Iran is a year away when it comes to nuclear weapons? And another question I had for you —

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Chuck, how many have you got? Do you guys do this in the Israeli press — you say you get one question and then you add like five?

Q  Well, I’m helping him. I’m helping him with his —

PRESIDENT OBAMA: You see how the young lady from Channel One, she had one question. She was very well-behaved, Chuck.

Q  I had that one for you and — (laughter) —

PRIME NETANYAHU: These are commuted questions they have. (Laughter.)

Q  Apparently — I thought I had four questions.

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Reiterations.

Q  Passover starts in a couple of days. (Laughter.) I get four questions, right?

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Look, this is not a Kosher question, but don’t hog it. (Laughter.)

Q  I guess my question to you was going to be, why do you believe the Israeli people have not embraced President Obama the same way they embraced our last two U.S. Presidents? Thank you.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: So you had to get a polling question in there right at the end? (Laughter.) Chuck, I mean, you’re just incorrigible. (Laughter.)

Well, look, the opening premise of your question was that having failed to achieve peace in the Middle East in my first term that I must have screwed up somehow. And I will tell you I hope I’m a better President now than when I first came into office, but my commitment was not to achieve a peace deal in my first year, or in my second year or my third year. That would have been nice. What I said was I was not going to wait to start on the issue until my second term, because I thought it was too important. And that’s exactly what I did.

I’m absolutely sure that there are a host of things that I could have done that would have been more deft and would have created better optics. But ultimately, this is a really hard problem. It’s been lingering for over six decades. And the parties involved have some profound interests that you can’t spin, you can’t smooth over. And it is a hard slog to work through all of these issues.

I will add that both parties also have politics, just like we do back home. There are a whole bunch of things that I’d like to do back in the United States that I didn’t get done in my first term. And I’m sure I could have been more deft there as well. But some of it’s just because it’s hard, and people disagree, and it takes I think a confluence of both good diplomatic work, but also timing, serendipity, things falling into place at the right time, the right players feeling that this is the moment to seize it.

And my goal here is just to make sure that the United State is a positive force in trying to create those opportunities as frequently as possible, and to be as clear as possible as to why we think that this is an important priority — not only because of some Pollyanna-ish views about can’t we all get along and hold hands and sing “Kumbaya,” but because I actually believe that Israel’s security will be enhanced with a resolution to this issue. I believe that Palestinians will prosper and can channel their extraordinary energies and entrepreneurship in more positive ways with a resolution to this issue. The entire region I think will be healthier with a resolution to this issue.

So I’m going to keep on making that argument. And I will admit that, frankly, sometimes it would be easier not to make the argument and to avoid the question, precisely because it’s hard. That’s not the approach that I’ve tried to take.

And there have probably been times where, when I’ve made statements about what I think needs to happen, the way it gets filtered through our press — it may be interpreted in ways that get Israelis nervous, just like there are folks back home who sometimes get nervous about areas where they aren’t sure exactly where I stand on things. That’s why I always like the opportunity to talk directly to you guys. Hopefully, you’ll show the live film, as opposed to the edited version.

With that, I think you’ve got four questions to answer, Bibi. (Laughter.)

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: I think that there’s a misunderstanding about time. If Iran decides to go for a nuclear weapon — that is, to actually manufacture the weapon — then it probably — then it would take them about a year. I think that’s correct. They could defer that a long time but still get through the enrichment process — that is, to make a weapon you need two things; you need enriched uranium of a critical amount and then you need a weapon. You can’t have the weapon without the enriched uranium, but you can have the enriched uranium without the weapon.

Iran right now is enriching uranium. It’s pursuing it. It hasn’t yet reached the red line that I had described in my speech at the U.N. — they’re getting closer, though.

And the question of manufacturing the weapon is a different thing. The President said correctly that we have — on these issues that are a little arcane, they sound a little detailed to you — but on these matters we share information and we have a common assessment. We have a common assessment.

In any case, Iran gets to an immunity zone when they get through the enrichment process, in our view — in our view — and whatever time is left, there’s not a lot of time. And every day that passes diminishes it. But we do have a common assessment. On the schedules, on intelligence, we share that intelligence and we don’t have any argument about it. I think it’s important to state that clearly.

I think that people should get to know President Obama the way I’ve gotten to know. And I think you’ve just heard something that is very meaningful. It may have escaped you, but it hasn’t escaped me. And that is the President announced that in addition to all the aid that his administration has provided — including Iron Dome, including defense funding for Israel during very difficult times — he has announced that we are going to begin talks on another 10-year process arrangement to ensure American military assistance to Israel. I think this is very significant.

And I want to express my thanks for everything that you have done. And I want to thank you also for that statement you just made. I think it’s very, very important.

So I think Israelis will judge this by the unfolding events and by what is happening, what is actually taking place. And for thi — you know, there’s a very simple answer to your question — the gentleman from NBC, right? Yes. Well, for this, you need, you see, a second term as President and a third term as Prime Minister. That really fixes things. (Laughter.)

PRESIDENT OBAMA: All right, thank you very much, everybody. (Applause.)

END          9:12 P.M. IST

Political Headlines March 20, 2013: President Barack Obama: Israel-US cooperation ‘never been greater’

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama: Israel-U.S. cooperation ‘never been greater’

Source: Politico (blog), 3-20-13

Here’s the message President Barack Obama wrote in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s guest book Wednesday, at least as much of it as is clear from the photo released by Netanyahu’s office….READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency March 20, 2013: President Barack Obama & President Shimon Peres’ Speeches After Meeting at President’s Residence in Jerusalem Transcript

POLITICAL BUZZ

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by President Obama and President Peres After Meeting

Source: WH, 3-20-13 

President’s Residence
Jerusalem

5:10 P.M. IST

PRESIDENT PERES:  President Obama, it is a great privilege for me and for the people of Israel to host you here in Jerusalem.

It was a real pleasure to sit with a true friend — very knowledgeable, fortunately — and sit candidly and discuss issues openly and freely.

After the meeting we just had, I have all confidence that your vision can transform the Middle East.  Your vision is achievable.  You arrived here already with an impressive record of answering our needs, particularly — and unforgettably — in the domain of security.  I want to thank you personally, dear friend, for the long days and for many long, sleepless nights — you know about them — which you spend caring for our country and for our future.

We live in an age that is both global and domestic, inseparably.  Interest may divide people; vision may unite them. There is common vision uniting us to confront the dangers, to bring peace closer as soon as possible.  The greatest danger is a nuclear Iran — so you said, so you do.  We trust your policy, which calls to, first, by non-military — to fight by non-military means with a clear statement that other options remain on the table.  You made it clear that your intention is not to contain but to prevent.

We are trying together to start negotiations with the Palestinians.  We already agreed that the goal is a two states for the two people solution.  There is no better one, or more achievable one.  We consider that the President of the Palestinian Authority, Abu Mazen, is our partner in that effort to stop terror and bring peace.

Hamas remains a terror organization that targets innocent people.  On our northern border, Iran’s proxy, Hezbollah, continues to stockpile arms and threaten our civilians while they target innocent people across the world.  Hezbollah is destroying Lebanon and supporting the brutal massacre of the Syrian people by President Assad.  Fortunately, the Syrian nuclear capacity was destroyed.  But unfortunately, thousands of chemical weapons remain.  We cannot allow those weapons to fall in the terrorists’ hands.  It could lead to an epic tragedy.

There is an attempt to bring spring to the Arab world.  It is an Arab choice.  It is an Arab initiative.  It may bring peace to the region, freedom to the people, economic growth to the Arab states.  If realized, it can lead to a better tomorrow.  We pray it will become a reality.

I really believe the vision is within skeptics and those who believe in peace.  Your voice will encourage belief.  You came to us with a clear message that no one should let skepticism win the day — a vision that states clearly that peace is not only a wish, but a possibility.  I fully support your call.  There is no other way to make the future better.  There is no better leader to make it possible.

Your visit is a historic step in that direction.  We shall journey with you all the way.  Thank you.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Thank you so much.

Well, thank you, President Peres, for your very generous words and your warm welcome.  It is wonderful to be here once again.  I first visited you when I was still a senator and had the opportunity to visit the lovely garden, and for me to be able to bring a tree from the United States that will find a home in that garden I think is symbolic of not only the friendship between our two nations, but between the two of us personally.

Mr. President, you once remarked that a prime minister’s job is to rule, a president’s job is to charm.  Well, as with all our visits together, I have once again succumbed to your charms and I’m grateful to your hospitality.

It is wonderful to be back in Jerusalem, the Eternal City.  And I’m pleased to begin my visit with a son of Israel who’s devoted his life to keeping Israel strong and sustaining the bonds between our two nations.  President Peres knows that this is a work of generations.  Just as he joined the struggle for Israeli independence in his early 20s, he’s always looking ahead, connecting with young people.  And I’m especially grateful for the time he allowed me to share with those extraordinary Israeli boys and girls.

Their dreams are much the same as children everywhere.  In another sense, though, their lives reflect the difficult realities that Israelis face every single day.  They want to be safe.  They want to be free from rockets that hit their homes or their schools.  They want a world where science and technology is created to build and not destroy.  They want to live in peace, free from terror and threats that are so often directed at the Israeli people.  That’s the future that they deserve.  That’s the vision that is shared by both our nations.  And that is Shimon Peres’s life work.

And, Mr. President, Michelle and I have such fond memories of your visit to the White House last spring, when I was honored to present you with America’s highest civilian honor — our Medal of Freedom.  And that medal was a tribute to your extraordinary life, in which you have held virtually every position in the Israeli government.

So today was another opportunity for me to benefit from the President’s perspective on a whole range of topics — from the historic changes that are taking place across the region to the perils of a nuclear-armed Iran, to the imperatives of peace between Israelis and Palestinians, to the promise of our digital age.

And I should note that one of the advantages of talking to President Peres is not only does he have astonishing vision, but he’s also a pretty practical-minded politician and consistently has good advice in terms of how we can approach many of these problems.

I reaffirmed to President Peres, as I will throughout my visit, that in this work, the State of Israel will have no greater friend than the United States.  And the work we do in our time will make it more likely that the children that we saw today alongside children from throughout the region have the opportunity for security and peace and prosperity.

This obligation to future generations I think was well symbolized by the tree planting that we started our meeting with. The Talmud recounts the story of Honi, the miracle worker, who saw a man planting a carob tree.  And he asked the man, how long before this tree yields fruit?  To which the man responded, “Seventy years.”  And so Honi asked, “Are you sure you’ll be alive in another 70 years to see it?”  And the man replied, “When I came into the world, I found carob trees.  As my forefathers planted for me, so will I plant for my children.”

President Peres I think understands that story well.  And so we want to all thank you for all the seeds you’ve planted — the seeds of progress, the seeds of security, the seeds of peace —  all the seeds that have helped not only Israel grow but also the relationship between our two nations grow.  And I believe that if we tend to them, if we nurture them, they will yield fruit in every hill and valley of this land, not only for the children we met today but for Israelis, for Palestinians, for Arabs across the region.  That’s not only good for the children of this region, but it’s good for my children and the children of America.

I deeply believe that.  And I couldn’t ask for a more wise or more thoughtful partner in that process.  I’m very grateful for you hospitality, and I look forward to our continued work in the future.

END
5:19 P.M. IST

Political Headlines March 20, 2013: President Barack Obama Arriving in Israel Vows ‘Unwavering Commitment’ to Israeli Security

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama in Israel Vows ‘Unwavering Commitment’ to Israeli Security

Source: ABC News Radio, 3-20-13

Marc Israel Sellem-Pool/Getty Images

Arriving in Israel Wednesday morning for his first presidential visit to Israel, President Obama sought to reassure Israelis of the strong support from the U.S. as they face increasing threats in the region, declaring “our alliance is eternal.”

Standing on the tarmac in Tel Aviv, Obama said it was “no accident” that he chose Israel for the first foreign trip of his second term.

“I see this visit as an opportunity to reaffirm the unbreakable bond between our nations, to restate America’s unwavering commitment to Israel’s security and to speak directly to the people of Israel and to your neighbors,” Obama said….READ MORE

Political Headlines March 20, 2013: President Barack Obama Arrives in Israel to Kick Off Middle East Tour

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Obama Arrives in Israel to Kick Off Middle East Tour

Source: ABC News Radio, 3-20-13

JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images

President Obama arrived in Israel Wednesday for his first presidential trip to the country.

Speaking at an airport ceremony in Tel Aviv, Obama, who is on a four-day tour of the Middle East, said he sees his visit to Israel “as an opportunity to reaffirm the unbreakable bond between our nations, to restate America’s unwavering commitment to Israel’s security.”

“The United States is proud to stand with you as your strongest ally and your greatest friend,” the president said….READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency March 20, 2013: President Barack Obama’s speech on arrival in Israel at Ben Gurion International Airport Transcript

POLITICAL BUZZ

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

President Obama Tells Israeli People: The U.S Is Proud to Be “Your Strongest Ally and Your Greatest Friend”

Source: WH, 3-20-13

President Obama and Israeli President Peres inspect an honor guard in Tel Aviv, Israel, March 20, 2013President Barack Obama and Israeli President Shimon Peres inspect an honor guard during the official arrival ceremony at Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel, March 20, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

On the first day of his visit to the Middle East, the first foreign trip of his second term, President Obama was in Israel, where he met with President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The visit is historic, marking the first time the President has visited Israel since taking office, and comes as its citizens celebrate the 65th anniversary of a free and independent State of Israel.

President Obama’s visit began with an arrival ceremony at the Ben Gurion airport, followed by an inspection of the Iron Dome Battery defense system in Tel Aviv. The Iron Dome is a short range rocket and mortar defense system, which was developed by Israel and produced with U.S. assistance and is part of a multi-tier missile defense developed to counter the rocket threat against Israel’s civilian population. From there, the President flew on to Jerusalem, where he met with Israeli leaders and attended a working dinner with Prime Minister Netanyahu.

Shortly after he landed in the Holy Land, President Obama took a minute to explain why this trip is so important for both the American and the Israeli people….READ MORE

Remarks by President Obama in Arrival Ceremony

Source: WH, 3-20-13 

Ben Gurion International Airport
Tel Aviv, Israel

12:55 P.M. IST

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Shalom.  (Applause.)  President Peres, Prime Minister Netanyahu, and most of all, to the people of Israel, thank you for this incredibly warm welcome.  This is my third visit to Israel so let me just say tov lihiyot shuv ba’aretz.  (Applause.)

I’m so honored to be here as you prepare to celebrate the 65th anniversary of a free and independent State of Israel.  Yet I know that in stepping foot on this land, I walk with you on the historic homeland of the Jewish people.

More than 3,000 years ago, the Jewish people lived here, tended the land here, prayed to God here.  And after centuries of exile and persecution, unparalleled in the history of man, the founding of the Jewish State of Israel was a rebirth, a redemption unlike any in history.

Today, the sons of Abraham and the daughters of Sarah are fulfilling the dream of the ages — to be “masters of their own fate” in “their own sovereign state.”  And just as we have for these past 65 years, the United States is proud to stand with you as your strongest ally and your greatest friend.

As I begin my second term as President, Israel is the first stop on my first foreign trip.  This is no accident.  Across this region the winds of change bring both promise and peril.  So I see this visit as an opportunity to reaffirm the unbreakable bonds between our nations, to restate America’s unwavering commitment to Israel’s security, and to speak directly to the people of Israel and to your neighbors.

I want to begin right now, by answering a question that is sometimes asked about our relationship — why?  Why does the United States stand so strongly, so firmly with the State of Israel?  And the answer is simple.  We stand together because we share a common story — patriots determined “to be a free people in our land,” pioneers who forged a nation, heroes who sacrificed to preserve our freedom, and immigrants from every corner of the world who renew constantly our diverse societies.

We stand together because we are democracies.  For as noisy and messy as it may be, we know that democracy is the greatest form of government ever devised by man.

We stand together because it makes us more prosperous.  Our trade and investment create jobs for both our peoples.  Our partnerships in science and medicine and health bring us closer to new cures, harness new energy and have helped transform us into high-tech hubs of our global economy.

We stand together because we share a commitment to helping our fellow human beings around the world.  When the earth shakes and the floods come, our doctors and rescuers reach out to help. When people are suffering, from Africa to Asia, we partner to fight disease and overcome hunger.

And we stand together because peace must come to the Holy Land.  For even as we are clear-eyed about the difficulty, we will never lose sight of the vision of an Israel at peace with its neighbors.

So as I begin this visit, let me say as clearly as I can –the United States of America stands with the State of Israel because it is in our fundamental national security interest to stand with Israel.  It makes us both stronger.  It makes us both more prosperous.  And it makes the world a better place.  (Applause.)

That’s why the United States was the very first nation to recognize the State of Israel 65 years ago.  That’s why the Star of David and the Stars and Stripes fly together today.  And that is why I’m confident in declaring that our alliance is eternal, it is forever – lanetzach.

Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

END
1:01 P.M. IST

Full Text Obama Presidency March 19 2013: President Barack Obama’s Middle East Trip to Israel & Jordan March 20-23, 2013 Schedule

POLITICAL BUZZ

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

President Obama’s Middle East Trip March 20-23, 2013

Source: WH

Related Blog Posts

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Middle East Trip 2013

In the first foreign trip of his second term in office, President Obama will visit Israel, the West Bank, and Jordan.

Trip Schedule

WEDNESDAY

  • President Obama will arrive in Tel Aviv, Israel, marking the President’s first trip to Israel as President of the United States.
  • President Obama will view an *Iron Dome Battery in Tel Aviv, Israel.
  • Later, President Obama will attend a bilateral meeting with Israeli President Peres in Jerusalem.
  • In the afternoon, President Obama will attend a bilateral meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, followed by a press conference.
  • In the evening, President Obama will attend a working dinner hosted by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu.

* Iron Dome is a short range rocket and mortar defense system, which was developed by Israel and produced with U.S. assistance. The Iron Dome system has saved countless Israeli lives, most recently during the November 2012 Gaza conflict.

THURSDAY

  • President Obama will visit the Israel Museum, where he will view the Dead Sea Scrolls and also attend a technology expo.
  • President Obama will travel to Ramallah, West Bank where he will be greeted with an official arrival ceremony.
  • In the afternoon, President Obama will have a bilateral meeting with Palestinian Authority President Abbas.
  • President Obama will participate in a working lunch with Palestinian Authority President Abbas followed by a press conference.
  • Later, President Obama will attend a cultural event at Al-Bireh Youth Center and will meet with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Fayyad.
  • President Obama will give a speech at the Jerusalem Convention Center.
  • In the evening, President Obama will attend a dinner hosted by Israeli President Peres and will receive the Presidential Medal of Distinction.

FRIDAY

  • The President will attend wreath laying ceremonies at Mount Herzl at the grave sites of Theodor Herzl and Yitzhak Rabin.
  • President Obama will visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum and participate in a wreath laying ceremony in the Hall of Remembrance.
  • In the afternoon, President Obama will travel to Bethlehem where he will tour the Church of the Nativity.
  • President Obama will travel to Amman, Jordan where he will be greeted by an official arrival ceremony.
  • President Obama will have a bilateral meeting with King Abdullah II of Jordan followed by a press conference.
  • In the evening, the President will have dinner with King Abdullah II of Jordan.

SATURDAY

  • President Obama will travel to Petra.
  • President Obama will begin his journey back to the United States.

Full Text Obama Presidency March 14, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Interview with Yonit Levy on Israel’s Channel 2 Excerpts — White House Interview Ahead of Israel Visit

POLITICAL BUZZ

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Obama: Diplomatic fix with Iran would be ‘a more lasting solution’

Source: Times of Israel, 3-14-13

Channel 2 broadcasts White House interview with the president ahead of his visit next week

President describes ‘terrific, businesslike’ relationship with ‘Bibi’

US President Barack Obama is interviewed on Channel 2 News, Thursday, March 14 (photo credit: image capture Channel 2)

US President Barack Obama is interviewed on Channel 2 News, Thursday, March 14 (photo credit: image capture Channel 2)

Ahead of his first visit to Israel as president next Wednesday, Barack Obama was interviewed Wednesday by Israel’s Channel 2. The interview at the White House, with news anchor Yonit Levy, was screened on Thursday.

20:47

As president, you can’t just interact with people informally

“You can’t just slip out and interact with people without having a bunch of guys with machine-guns” hanging out with you….

Ventures Levy: There must be some compensations?

Obama: Well, there’s “a nice plane.”

20:40

Jonathan Pollard committed a very serious crime

“I recognize the emotions involved in this… My first obligation is to observe the law.”…

20:37

Coming to ‘listen’ on the Palestinian issue…

20:33

‘Terrific, businesslike’ relationship with ‘Bibi’

Levy pushes on the Obama-Netanyahu relationship.

“The bottom line is that Israel’s security is going to be at the forefront.” It’s not a factor of who’s president or prime minister.

“Any time you read something where the president allegedly said something in as private meting, I think you should … take that with a pinch of salt.”…

20:30

Israel has right ‘to be secure as a homeland of the Jewish people’

Levy asks about some Israelis’ negative perceptions of him.

“Some of this is politics… There are conservative views both here in the United States and Israel that may not jive with mine.”… “I’ve run my last election…”

“The fundamental right of Israel to be secure as a homeland of the Jewish people, and its connection to the land.”

“Resolving the Palestinian issue is good” for Israel’s security. If it can be resolved, he stresses….

20:26

On Iran, my cabinet is prepared for a whole range of contingencies

“My cabinet is prepared for a whole range of contingencies.” Kerry and Hagel “share my fundamental view” on a nuclear Iran as a threat to US interest….

20:23

I’ve been crystal clear on Iran

“We think it would take over a year or so for Iran to actually develop a nuclear weapon but obviously we don’t want to cut it too close.”…

20:20

It’s a chance to connect with the Israeli people

What took you so long to come?

Well, we’ve had some crises in the United States…. It’s a chance to connect with the Israeli people. The bonds.. are so strong. Shared values. Shared families… Unshakeable commitment… and a shared vision… I’m really looking forward to it.

20:18

The Obama interview in full

20:15

‘I’d love to sit at a cafe and just hang out’

“I’d love to sit at a cafe and just hang out. Sometimes I have this fantasy that I can put on a disguise and wear a fake mustache” and wander into Tel Aviv, go to a university and speak to some students, “in a setting that wasn’t so formal.”…

20:06

Obama: It would take Iran over a year to build the bomb

We think that it would take over a year or so for Iran to actually develop a nuclear weapon but obviously we don’t want to cut it too close. So when I am consulting with Bibi… my message to him will be the same as before: If we can resolve it diplomatically, that’s a more lasting solution.

When I say that all options are on the table, all options are on the table….

19:59

Obama: No plan to release Pollard

Obama: We think that it would take over a year or so for Iran to actually develop a nuclear weapon.

And: I have no plans for releasing Jonathan Pollard immediately….

19:58

Plenty of hype ahead of the broadcast

19:51

Channel 2 set to broadcast its Obama interview

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