President Obama, at U.N., focuses on human rights and democracy.
AP UNITED NATIONS — Exhorting world leaders to push past years of cynicism and pessimism, President Barack Obama challenged the countries of the United Nations on Thursday to unite around peace efforts that he said could achieve agreement within a year to create an independent Palestine and a secure Israel.
Obama, in a speech to the U.N. General Assembly, urged fellow world leaders to press forward with renewed determination in the quest for Mideast peace, an effort that he acknowledged has encountered “few peaks and many valleys.”
Without an agreement, he said, “more blood will be shed” and “this Holy Land will remain a symbol of our differences, instead of our common humanity.”
As Obama spoke, Israel’s seat in the hall sat empty because it was a Jewish holiday. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was present, listening to the president through a translator’s earphone. Obama’s call for a Palestinian state drew a burst of applause from throughout the hall.
Obama’s one-year timeline is ambitious even if the Mideast peace process faced the best of circumstances, which it does not. He made no mention of the militant Hamas movement, which controls the Gaza Strip and refuses to accept Israel’s right to exist.