Some highlights of the president's high stakes diplomatic speech Wednesday:
On Israel and Palestine:
"One year ago, I stood at this podium and called for an independent Palestine. I believed then – and I believe now – that the Palestinian people deserve a state of their own. But what I also said is that genuine peace can only be realized between Israelis and Palestinians themselves.
...I know that many are frustrated by the lack of progress. So am I. But the question isn't the goal we seek – the question is how to reach it. And I am convinced that there is no short cut to the end of a conflict that has endured for decades. Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the UN – if it were that easy, it would have been accomplished by now. Ultimately, it is Israelis and Palestinians who must live side by side. 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."
"America's commitment to Israel's security is unshakeable, and our friendship with Israel is deep and enduring. And so we believe that any lasting peace must acknowledge the very real security concerns that Israel faces every single day. Let's be honest: Israel is surrounded by neighbors that have waged repeated wars against it. Israel's citizens have been killed by rockets fired at their houses and suicide bombs on their buses. Israel's children come of age knowing that throughout the region, other children are taught to hate them. Israel, a small country of less than eight million people, looks out at a world where leaders of much larger nations threaten to wipe it off of the map. The Jewish people carry the burden of centuries of exile, persecution, and the fresh memory of knowing that six million people were killed simply because of who they were.
These facts cannot be denied. The Jewish people have forged a successful state in their historic homeland. Israel deserves recognition. It deserves normal relations with its neighbors. 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.
That truth – that each side has legitimate aspirations – is what makes peace so hard. And the deadlock will only be broken when each side learns to stand in each other's shoes.
...The measure of our actions must always be whether they advance the right of Israeli and Palestinian children to live in peace and security, with dignity and opportunity. We will only succeed in that effort if we can encourage the parties to sit down together, to listen to each other, and to understand each other's hopes and fears. That is the project to which America is committed. And that is what the United Nations should be focused on in the weeks and months to come.
"From Tripoli to Misratah to Benghazi – today, Libya is free. Yesterday, the leaders of a new Libya took their rightful place beside us, and this week, the United States is reopening our Embassy in Tripoli. This is how the international community is supposed to work – nations standing together for the sake of peace and security; individuals claiming their rights."
On the Arab spring:
"Osama bin Laden is gone, and the idea that change could only come through violence has been buried with him. Something is happening in our world. The way things have been is not the way they will be. The humiliating grip of corruption and tyranny is being pried open.
...But let us remember: peace is hard. Progress can be reversed. Prosperity comes slowly. Societies can split apart. The measure of our success must be whether people can live in sustained freedom, dignity, and security. And the United Nations and its member states must do their part to support those basic aspirations."
"[T]he United States has imposed strong sanctions on Syria's leaders. We have supported a transfer of power that is responsive to the Syrian people. Many of our allies have joined us in this effort. But for the sake of Syria – and the peace and security of the world – we must speak with one voice. There is no excuse for inaction. Now is the time for the United Nations Security Council to sanction the Syrian regime, and to stand with the Syrian people."
"In Yemen, men, women and children gather by the thousands in towns and city squares every day with the hope that their determination and spilled blood will prevail over a corrupt system. America supports their aspirations. We must work with Yemen's neighbors and our partners around the world to seek a path that allows for a peaceful transition of power from President Saleh, and a movement to free and fair elections as soon as possible."
On Nuclear weapons and Iran and North Korea
"As we meet our obligations, we have strengthened the treaties and institutions that help stop the spread of these weapons. To do so, we must continue to hold accountable those nations that flout them. The Iranian government cannot demonstrate that its program is peaceful, has not met its obligations, and rejected offers that would provide it with peaceful nuclear power. North Korea has yet to take concrete steps toward abandoning its weapons, and continues belligerent actions against the South. There is a future of greater opportunity for the people of these nations if their governments meet their obligations. But if they continue down a path that is outside international law, they must be met with greater pressure and isolation. That is what our commitment to peace demands."
On the world economic crisis:
"Today, we confront the challenges that have followed that crisis. Recovery is fragile. Markets are volatile. Too many people are out of work. Too many others are struggling to get by. We acted together to avert a Depression in 2009. We must take urgent and coordinated action once more.
...We stand with our European allies as they reshape their institutions and address their own fiscal challenge. For other countries, leaders face a different challenge as they shift their economies towards more self-reliance, boosting domestic demand while slowing inflation. So we will work with emerging economies that have rebounded strongly, so that rising standards of living create new markets that promote global growth. That is what our commitment to prosperity demands."
"[T]oday, as drought and conflict have brought famine to the Horn of Africa, our conscience calls on us to act. Together, we must continue to provide assistance, and support organizations that can reach those in need. And together, we must insist on unrestricted humanitarian access so that we can save the lives of thousands of men, women and children. Our common humanity is at stake. Let us show that the life of a child in Somalia is as precious as any other. That is what our commitment to our fellow human beings demands."