Obama: Palestinians have right to be free in their land

U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks in celebration of Jewish American Heritage Month at Adas Israel Congregation, May 22, 2015 in Washington, DC. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/AFP)
Jewish values compel two-state solution, president says, hailing contribution of American Jews, denouncing rise of anti-Semitism, defending Iran nuke deal

By Ilan Ben Zion and Rebecca Shimoni Stoil|The Times of Israel

President Barack Obama on Friday called for the establishment of a free Palestinian state alongside Israel, saying it was necessary for the preservation of Israeli democracy and security, and integral to Jewish values.

Wearing a white kippah, Obama spoke to a crowd of about 1,000 at Washington DC’s Adas Israel Congregation, one of the largest in the capital, marking Jewish American Heritage Month.

He touted his pro-Israel policies and close ties with Jewish advisors, wishing the audience a “slightly early Shabbat Shalom” and peppering his speech with Hebrew terms such as “tikkun olam” — repairing the world. He said his personal philosophy was inspired by Jewish values and the Israeli pioneer spirit, and “forcefully” objected to claims that his disagreements with the Israeli government over some policies belied a lack of support for the Jewish state.

Obama was greeted by ringing applause when he affirmed a vision of “Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace and security.”

“Just as Israelis built a state in their homeland, Palestinians have a right to be a free people in their land as well,” he said.

“That’s not easy,” he went on. “The Palestinians are not the easiest of partners. The neighborhood is dangerous and we cannot expect Israel to take existential risks with their security, and so any deal that takes place has to take into account the genuine dangers of terrorism and hostility.”