UNITED NATIONS - (AP) - President Barack Obama declared Wednesdaythat there could be no short cut to peace between Israel and thePalestinians, as he sought to head off a looming diplomatic crisisfor the Middle East and U.S. policy there.
"Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at theU.N. - if it were that easy, it would have been accomplished bynow," the president said. "Ultimately, it is Israelis andPalestinians who must live side by side. Ultimately, it is Israelisand Palestinians - not us - who must reach agreement on the issuesthat divide them."
But in the speech before the U.N. General Assembly, Obamastopped short of directly calling on the Palestinians to drop theirplan to seek statehood recognition from the U.N. Security Council.U.S. officials were working furiously behind the scenes to persuadethe Palestinians. With the limits of U.S. influence on the moribundpeace process never more clear, Obama had no new demands for theIsraelis, either, beyond saying that both sides deserved their ownstate and security."Peace depends upon compromise among peoples who must livetogether long after our speeches are over, and our votes have beencounted," Obama said. "That is the path to a Palestinian state."
The push by the Palestinians threatens to isolate Israel evenfurther, and divide the U.S. from allies in the Arab world whosupport the statehood resolution. Obama was to follow up his speechwith separate meetings with Israeli and Palestinian leaders as heseeks to coax both parties back to direct peace talks.
At the same time, U.S. officials are conceding that theyprobably cannot prevent Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas frommoving forward with a request to the U.N. Security Council for fullPalestinian membership. The Obama administration has pledged toveto any Palestinian statehood bid, arguing that only direct peacenegotiations, not a U.N. vote, would allow the Palestinians toachieve the benefits of statehood.
It's a much different outcome than Obama hoped for a year ago,when he wanted to herald by now a negotiated agreement between theIsraelis and the Palestinians. U.S. persuasion and pressure failedto achieve that result and now peace again looks distant. Obama putthe blame for that on Israel and the Palestinians.
"Despite extensive efforts by America and others, the partieshave not bridged their differences," Obama said.