Obama will wager substantial political and diplomatic capital on his effort to forge an elusive deal, and call on Arab states and the rest of the world to overcome the paralysis surrounding regional peace talks for years.


The president will tell the United Nations General Assembly it is time for key regional players to draw on traditions of tolerance common to Islam, Judaism and Christianity to forge peace.

“If we do, when we come back here next year, we can have an agreement that will lead to a new member of the United Nations – an independent state of Palestine, living in peace with Israel,” Obama will say, according to excerpts of his speech released by the White House.

Obama’s calculated but risky move will come at a critical moment for his Middle East peace initiative, with an Israeli moratorium on most settlement construction in the occupied West Bank set to lapse at the end of this month.

It also coincides with a moment of high domestic political vulnerability for the president, with his Democratic party fearing heavy losses in mid-term congressional elections in November.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has threatened to walk out of peace talks painstakingly brokered by Washington if Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu does not extend the settlement ban.

Obama will raise the stakes for the current Middle East talks, acknowledging that many observers are “pessimistic” about the direct talks he relaunched this month between Israelis and Palestinians.

He will note that rejectionists on both sides of the conflict will try to disrupt the process with “bitter words and with bombs” and note that many people believe peace is not possible.

“But consider the alternative. If an agreement is not reached, Palestinians will never know the pride and dignity that comes with their own state.

“Israelis will never know the certainty and security that comes with sovereign and stable neighbours who are committed to co-existence.”

Obama will also make the point that if the current round of talks collapses, hopes of peace may founder for a generation.

“The hard realities of demography will take hold. More blood will be shed. This Holy Land will remain a symbol of our differences, instead of our common humanity,” Obama will say, according to the prepared remarks.

Obama will also make a fresh attempt to prod Arab states, which the United States faults for not sufficiently supporting his peace drive, to grant political favours to Israel, designed to keep the process alive.

“Many in this hall count themselves as friends of the Palestinians. But these pledges must now be supported by deeds,” Obama will say, according to the remarks released by the White House.

“Those who have signed on to the Arab Peace Initiative should seize this opportunity to make it real by describing and demonstrating the normalisation that it promises Israel.

“Those who long to see an independent Palestine rise must stop trying to tear Israel down.”

The dispute over the settlement moratorium has threatened to undermine the US efforts to revive the Middle East peace talks, and led to frequent Palestinian threats of a walkout.

The deadline for the end of the freeze is widely accepted as September 26, 10 months and a day after the original cabinet decision expires. But a military order regarding the moratorium states it will only close on October 1.

Palestinian officials have said that US mediators have suggested a three-month extension of the settlement moratorium.

About 500,000 Israelis live in more than 120 Jewish settlements across the West Bank and east Jerusalem, territories expected to form the bulk of a future Palestinian state.