At this weekend’s Saban Forum in Washington, DC, President Obama and Secretary Kerry both made strong statements reaffirming that the US commitment to a diplomatic resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a top administration priority.
The overarching theme of President Obama’s and Secretary Kerry’s remarks today was diplomacy’s growing track record in defusing conflict across the Middle East. From Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles, to Iran’s pursuit of a nuclear weapon, to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, we are seeing the power of diplomatic leadership in confronting these threats to Israeli, US and regional security.
In his remarks, Obama said, “The only way this is going to be resolved is if the people of Israel and the Palestinian people make a determination that their futures and the futures of their children and grandchildren will be better off with peace than with conflict. The United States can be an effective facilitator of that negotiation and dialogue; we can help to bridge differences and bridge gaps.” He commended Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas for what called “courageous efforts that have led to very serious conversations over the last several months.”
Secretary Kerry said , “I understand that there are many who are skeptical of whether American diplomacy can achieve this breakthrough to peace. […] But I believe that if you indeed care about Israel, if you care about its security, if you care about its future, if you care about Palestinians achieving their legitimate aspirations to self-determination, we need to believe that peace is possible. And we all need to act on that belief.”
The president also spoke at length about diplomatic efforts to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, drawing a critical distinction between insisting on a maximalist outcome in negotiations and getting the toughest, best deal you can.
The president said, “What we have to do is to make a decision as to, given the options available, what is the best way for us to assure that Iran does not get a nuclear weapon. And the best way for us to assure it is to test this diplomatic path, understanding that it’s not based on trust; it’s based on what we can verify.”
The forum, an annual event sponsored by the Brookings Institution that features Israeli and American leadership, concludes tomorrow after a moderated conversation with Prime Minister Netanyahu at 10:15 EST. Watch online and follow along with @jstreetdotorg on Twitter.