WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Co-chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, today issued the following statement regarding President Obama’s speeches on the Middle East peace process and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to a Joint Session of Congress:
During the past few days, President Obama addressed the world on the challenges facing the Middle East. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also addressed a joint meeting of Congress and laid out the fundamental issues of security and peace. As Prime Minister Netanyahu clearly stated this morning, “I will accept a Palestinian state. It is time for President Abbas to stand before his people and say: ‘I will accept a Jewish state.’” It is apparent that it is the interest of all parties for there to be two states – the Jewish State of Israel and independent Palestinian state – living side-by-side with secure borders in peace.
President Obama’s speech to the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee on Sunday made clear that any discussions on final borders between Israelis and Palestinians should be – and must be – decided at the peace table between the two parties, which Prime Minister Netanyahu echoed – and I agree. To be real and sustainable, the 1967 borders must be adjusted to ensure Israel’s security needs and to reflect the situation on the ground, including population centers.
Any unilateral attempt by the United Nations to establish a Palestinian state is detrimental to a final peace agreement, and I was pleased to hear the President firmly state his intention to veto such a resolution. A permanent settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can only be achieved through direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
Unless Hamas fully renounces violence and acknowledges Israel’s right to exist, it cannot be a partner in peace and their inclusion in a Palestinian unity government is a major obstacle.
This week, the President highlighted what I have always believed – unyielding U.S. support for Israel’s security, U.S. rejection of Palestinian terrorism, and most importantly, the necessity for the parties to commit to negotiations as the means of resolving the conflict. I also met with Prime Minister Netanyahu today and after that discussion, I am similarly confident that that what bonds our countries is an unbreakable alliance. As he stated before Congress, “Israel has no better friend than America. And America has no better friend than Israel. We stand together to defend democracy. We stand together to advance peace. We stand together to fight terrorism.”