At his press conference Thursday with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, President Barack Obama chose an unusual example to drive home his belief that peace between Israelis and Palestinians is possible.
In his effort to convince the local populations, who have been in a decades-old (and some might even say millennia-old) conflict, Obama invoked perhaps the most peaceful neighbors on the planet, that is the U.S. and Canada.
“We can’t afford to have our kids in bed sleeping and suddenly a rocket comes through the roof, but my argument is even though both sides may have areas of strong disagreement, may be engaging in activities the other side considers to be a breach of good faith, we have to push through those things to try to get to an agreement,” Obama said.
“Because if we get an agreement then it will be very clear what the nature of that agreement is,” he added.
Obama described his vision: “There will be a sovereign Palestinian state, a sovereign Jewish state of Israel and those two states can, I think, will be able to deal with each other the same way all states do.”
And then he invoked this example: “I mean, you know, the United States and Canada has arguments once in a while, but they’re not the nature of arguments that can’t be solved diplomatically.”
Abbas didn’t react to Obama’s U.S.-Canada line. But prominent Israeli journalist Chemi Shalev did:
OK, so now he’s comparing Israel-Palestine to US-Canada… #obamainisrael
— Chemi Shalev (@ChemiShalev) March 21, 2013
But Israeli officials have long tried to describe the conflict in terms Americans can more easily relate to. For example, Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren told this to an MSNBC anchor who was questioning the lethality of missiles terror groups were launching at Israel during the November hostilities:
“You have the equivalent of what would be about 170 million Americans under bomb shelters. If Hamas continues to escalate we will take the necessary and legitimate measures to defend our citizens,” Oren said then.
Obama’s main message during the press conference with Abbas was, “We cannot give up on the search for peace no matter how hard it is.”
“I absolutely believe that it is still possible, but I think it is very difficult,” he also said.
Obama criticized Israel’s continued building of housing for Jews in the West Bank. “We do not consider continued settlement activity to be constructive, to be appropriate, to be something that can advance the cause of peace,” Obama said.
However, he did add this: “…the politics there are complex and I recognize that is not an issue that’s going to be solved immediately, it’s not going to be solved overnight.”
Abbas said, “…we require the Israeli government to stop settlements in order to discuss all our issues and their concerns.”
Obama said he would like to see an independent, viable and contiguous Palestinian state alongside the Jewish state of Israel so that the two nations can enjoy self-determination, security and peace.
Earlier in Ramallah, 200-300 angry protesters demonstrated against Obama in the city’s central square. According to the Times of Israel, the slogans shouted included: “We don’t want anything peaceful, only bullets and missiles,” and, “Go home you devil, we don’t want to see Americans here.”