What Obama told an NYC synagogue crowd
Jewish Insider obtained an audio recording from former President Barack Obama’s appearance at Temple Emanu-El Streicker Center in NYC on Wednesday evening. In a conversation with Rabbi Joshua Davidson, Obama defended his administration’s record on Israel, the December 2016 abstention at the UN Security Council, and criticized Israel’s settlement policy.
On ensuring Israel’s security: “I think it is not just in America’s strategic interest, but I think it is a moral obligation globally to ensure that Israel is secure. In light of history, that a secure Jewish state is an expression of our commitment that all people should be able to worship their God, cultivate their culture, and raise their children safely without discrimination, and that the intersection between human rights and civil rights, and combating anti-Semitism and affirming the rights of a people to their homeland, those things are all inbuilt as was often displayed during the Civil Rights movement, as people like Dr. [Martin Luther] King understood, and that’s the reason why — this is not subject to dispute — my administration provided more security assistance to Israel than any other administration before…”
Obama on settlements: “I deeply believe that if Israel is to fulfill its vision as a Jewish state and a democratic state, that the current arrangement in the West Bank and Gaza is unsustainable… One of the reasons why [a peace deal] is becoming less and less achievable is because of settlements outside the blocs… deep into the West Bank; the pace of settlements during my presidency and during Netanyahu’s time as prime minister, skyrocketed and accelerated. If you look at a map, it starts becoming like a swiss cheese map where it becomes almost impossible to create any kind of functioning, continuous Palestinian state — even one that is disarmed, even one that ensures security, it just becomes impossible to do it. And this was a source of constant tension between myself and the Likud government that was in charge, and I continued to warn the Israeli government that that posture of being able to just continue endless settlement construction was not only harmful to the peace process but was leading to very powerful objections internationally… And to this day, that settlement construction continues.”
UNSC 2334: “Towards the end of my term, when the Egyptians drafted a yet another declaration with respect to settlement construction, using language that not only I, but previous presidents, had said was impediment to peace, and that if we didn’t insist that it include condemnation of violence and incitement by the Palestinians to make it more balanced, we couldn’t pull back the entire rest of the world getting off it, other than just a pure exercise of [veto] power – and I thought that was misleading because our ability to protect Israel on the international stage, at some point, does require credibility — people believing that we are true to our principles, and, by the way, Israel’s founding principles…”
Not optimistic right now for the peace process: “My hope — going forward — is that there is sufficient self-reflection inside of Israel, that there is change in orientation on this issue, and my hope, by the way, is there is a change in orientation by the Palestinians because as I used to tell Abbas, ‘Have you from the start — set aside Arafat — when you came into power, recognizing Israel and affirming that you wanted a peace deal; had you had the moral authority to insist on only peaceful protests, and based on the principle of recognizing the right of return to exist and the humanity of the Jewish people, and it was universal principles that were being taught in Palestinian schools, that my strong suspicion is that Israelis would have responded differently. That’s not what happened.’ Right now, I can’t say I am optimistic about a potential peace process. I think the Palestinian leadership is too weak, and I think politics within Israel has moved away from the prospect of the two state solution… To be a true friend of Israel, it is important to be honest about it, and the politics of this country sometimes do not allow that.”