Obama to Israelis: Put Yourself in Palestine’s Shoes

It’s ‘not fair’ that their kids can’t grow up in their own state, he says. President Obama gave a well-received speech to Israeli college students yesterday in which he pressed them to challenge their political leaders to bring about peace. “You must create the change that you want to see,” he said, adding that having a Palestinian state and an Israeli state existing side by side is the only way to achieve long-term security. In a quote that’s getting much attention, he asked the Israelis to have some empathy for Palestinians: “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, and lives with the presence of a foreign army that controls the movements of her parents every single day. It is not just when settler violence against Palestinians goes unpunished. 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.” Obama then ventured off script, saying he met a group of Palestinians earlier in the day. “Talking to them, they weren’t that different from my daughter; they weren’t that different from your daughters or sons. I honestly believe that if any Israeli parents sat down with them, they’d say, ‘I want these kids to succeed. I want them to prosper.’ I believe that,” Obama said.

The crowd “cheered repeatedly” during the address. At the Atlantic, Jeffrey Goldberg called it a “strong” speech likely to be a “pleasant surprise” to Palestinians. Obama “was a bit more blunt than I thought,” he adds. “I was sitting near the head of the settlers’ council, who seemed ready to explode with anger.”


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