Obama to Palestinians and Israelis: There is no shortcut to peace

President Barack Obama addresses the 66th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2011.
AP Photo/Richard Drew
UPDATED 11:35 a.m. ET

President Obama on Wednesday told the U.N. General Assembly that Palestine cannot achieve peace with Israel by unilaterally seeking recognition from the U.N., asserting that lasting peace must be negotiated directly by those involved.

"I am convinced that there is no short cut to the end of a conflict that has endured for decades," President Obama said. "Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the U.N. - if it were that easy, it would have been accomplished by now."

"Ultimately, it is Israelis and Palestinians who must live side by side," he continued. "Ultimately, it is Israelis and Palestinians - not us - who must reach agreement on the issues that divide them: on borders and security; on refugees and Jerusalem."

In the midst of stalled peace negotiations with Israel, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas is expected to deliver a formal request for statehood recognition on Friday when he speaks to the General Assembly. Mr. Obama and French President Nicolas Sarkozy are planning to pressure Abbas this week to end his bid for full U.N. membership after Abbas makes his formal request. While it is unlikely the bid makes it to the U.N. Security Council for a vote, the U.S. has promised to use its veto power if it does.

At the same time, Mr. Obama stopped short of directly asking Abbas to drop his bid and acknowledged that he called for an independent Palestine at last year's gathering of the world's leaders.

"I believed then - and I believe now - that the Palestinian people deserve a state of their own," he said. "But what I also said is that genuine peace can only be realized between Israelis and Palestinians themselves."

Mr. Obama noted that Israel deserves to be recognized by its neighbors in the Middle East.

"And friends of the Palestinians do them no favors by ignoring this truth, just as friends of Israel must recognize the need to pursue a two state solution with a secure Israel next to an independent Palestine," he said.

While the U.S. remains committed to helping Palestine achieve statehood, Mr. Obama also said America's commitment to Israel's security is "unshakeable."

"Let's be honest with ourselves," he said. "Israel is surrounded by neighbors that have waged repeated wars against it" and "looks out at a world where leaders of much larger nations threaten to wipe it off of the map."

Mr. Obama said the basis for negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians are clear: "Israelis must know that any agreement provides assurances for their security. Palestinians deserve to know the territorial basis of their state," he said.

Mr. Obama will meet with Abbas in private on Wednesday and is expected to deliver the same message. He will also meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

On CBS' "The Early Show" Wednesday, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice echoed the president's message.

"Our view is not that the Palestinians shouldn't have a state; indeed, they should, living side-by-side in peace and security with the Jewish state of Israel," Rice said, "but that can only happen through negotiations."