- (Photo: Reuters/Darren Whiteside)
During his trip to Israel, President Barack Obama stated that the Jewish state has "the unshakeable support" of the United States in its efforts to defend its country and make peace with its neighbors.
At remarks given Thursday at the Jerusalem Convention Center, President Obama spoke about the strong ties between the United States and Israel.
"Those ties began only 11 minutes after Israeli independence, when the United States was the first nation to recognize the State of Israel," said Obama.
"I am proud that the security relationship between the United States and Israel has never been stronger: more exercises between our militaries, and more exchanges among our political, military and intelligence officials than ever before; the largest program to date to help you retain your qualitative military edge."
Obama also stressed that Israel has a right to be concerned about the prospects of a nuclear weapons-armed Iran.
"When I consider Israel's security, I also think about a people who have a living memory of the Holocaust, faced with the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iranian government that has called for Israel's destruction," said Obama.
"It's no wonder Israelis view this as an existential threat. But this is not simply a challenge for Israel – it is a danger for the entire world, including the United States."
While noting the cultural similarities and ties between America and Israel, and its right to defend itself, Obama also stressed the need for a viable Palestinian state for the sake of peace.
"But the Palestinian people's right to self-determination and justice must also be recognized. Put yourself in their shoes – look at the world through their eyes. It is not fair that a Palestinian child cannot grow up in a state of her own," said Obama.
"It is not right to prevent Palestinians from farming their lands; to restrict a student's ability to move around the West Bank; or to displace Palestinian families from their home. Neither occupation nor expulsion is the answer. Just as Israelis built a state in their homeland, Palestinians have a right to be a free people in their own land."
In recent years, Obama received much criticism from political opponents for his treatment of Israel regarding proposals toward solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the occasional off-mic comment heard by press.
Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reformed Judaism, said in a statement that Obama's speech was "remarkable" and made him feel "pride as an American and as a Jew."
"It was an historic speech, perhaps the most important in recent memory by an American president," said Jacobs, adding that the "powerful recognition of Israel's right to exist was important, as well his eloquent and heartfelt recognition of the challenges and the opportunities that Israel faces as it seeks a peaceful and hopeful future."