Washington (CNN) - The White House chief of staff Tuesday reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to Israel and said the dispute over settlements should not keep the Israelis and Palestinians from holding peace talks.
"No one should allow the issue of settlements to distract from the goal of a lasting peace between Israel, the Palestinians and the Arab world," Rahm Emanuel told participants at a conference of the Jewish Federations of North America.
He urged Israelis and Palestinians to hold peace negotiations soon to address key "final status" issues of security, borders, refugees and Jerusalem. But he added that that "unilateral actions should be avoided and cannot dictate the outcome," a pointed reference to continued settlement activity by Israel.
Emanuel filled in for President Barack Obama, who canceled his scheduled appearance before the group to attend the Fort Hood memorial service. He reiterated statements made by Obama stressing the "unbreakable" bond between the United States and Israel.
Emanuel pushed back against critics who say Obama is turning his back on Israel by engaging with the Arab and Muslim world. Obama's motives are "just the opposite," he said, adding, "It is only through dialogue that we can achieve lasting peace that Israel seeks.
"As this administration has sought to engage the region, there are some who suggest this implies a diminished level of support for Israel," he said. "That is not the intent and that is not the case and never will be."
He warned about the dangers of Israel abandoning efforts to reach a peace deal with the Palestinians, saying that a two-state solution is critical to preserving Israel's identity as a Jewish state.
"Demographics cannot be denied," he said, nothing that without a neighboring Palestinian state Israel would have to "attempt to preserve a democratic state, a Jewish state, when Jews will soon be a minority west of the Jordan River.
While acknowledging the peace process is difficult, Emanuel said, "The path towards peace is not one Israel should be asked to walk alone."
The United States will remain actively engaged and will "stand by Israel as one true friend as it takes steps toward peace," he said.
Emanuel spoke of his family's roots in Israel and the "privileged point of view" he gained by seeing Israel "as a homeland." He noted that he will be taking his son and nephew to Israel to celebrate their bar mitzvahs this spring.
He also touched on domestic issues, saying that last weekend's vote by the House of Representatives on health care legislation brought the United States "closer than ever to achieving" health care reform. He began his remarks by calling for a moment of silence for the victims of the Fort Hood shooting.
His speech came a day after Obama met with leaders from the Jewish Federations as well as with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who addressed the group Monday.
In his remarks, Netanyahu called for an immediate resumption of peace talks with Palestinians, saying his goal "is to achieve a permanent peace treaty between Israel and the Palestinians, and soon."
"Let us seize the moment to reach an historic agreement; let us begin talks immediately," he said.
When this administration speaks to the "conference of the Jewish Federations of North America", suddenly everything is pro-Israel and all about the "unbreakable bond between us".
Where was this sentiment back when Obama was highly critical of Israelis for building new settlements? Up until now, Obama has publicly berated Israel for simply defending its sovereign homeland.
Oh that's right, he's pandering to the crowd in attendance. Must be an election or a big vote coming up.
Isreal doesn't want peace, otherwise they would not elect someone who has worked against it so long. The settlements must GO before any solution can work, for Palestinians to have their own country, and there cannot be pockets of Isreal in that area. I'm afraid the only future for that area is a mushroom cloud, and only because both sides are too pig headed (every pun intended) to put aside their pride and work for the greater good. I hope to goodness reason and goodwill will prevail, but I don't hold much hope for it, and with the federal government in the pocket of Isreal, we cannot be a real broker for peace.
Sorry Rahm, the settlements are the single largest issue and, trust me, Bibi's not going to stop expansion. It's time to call the Ambassador home for consultation and send a clear message to Jerusalem that the time for stalling is over.
No more smokescreens, no more excuses as there will never be peace until these settlements stop. Bibi's here to raise funds period and why Obama wasted time on him again send a strong signal that AIPAC still runs this issue. Too bad.
Oh for goodness sake. Let's not allow Israel's violations of UN resolutions stop us from being really really good buddies.
We don't care the Israelis have their own genocide going on against the Palestinians. After all, they're only Arabs. Right?
settlements will prohibit a peace agreement.....
Not that they are important but that the Palestinians will use any excuse to reach their ultimate goal--wiping Israel off the face of the earth....
The Israeli government is guilty of war crimes...try those responsible NOW.
mmm... no chage that we voted for on this issue ...
...you can add Genocide the the list of Israeli war crims, too.
No war crimes. You fire rockets at our civilians, we're gonna bomb and shell your Palestinian villages. Pretty simple and approved by the last administration.
This guy is the poster child of democratic corruption
There will be no peace in the Middle East as long as Zionism (israel)and Imperialism (usa) are allies sharing the same advocated goal. i.e. extracting the Arab's natural resources for their own declared self interest, being Palestinian land for Israel or oil for USA.
Great photo...he is as evil as The Joker and twice as cunning.
This guy looks like the Grinch–but, is much less likable.
"Where was this sentiment back when Obama was highly critical of Israelis for building new settlements? Up until now, Obama has publicly berated Israel for simply defending its sovereign homeland."
I'm sorry, did you just contradict yourself from one sentence to the next? You must realize that the settlements are being built on land that doesn't belong to Israel, don't you? That Israel is, in fact, a state given to people after it was taken from others (it was a British protectorate). That the palestinian people have been in that region since time immemorial? I should thank you though for highlighting just how ignorant your average American is about the history of that region. Israel exists because Europe didn't want them anymore after WWII...plain and simple. They could just as easily have been given their own state in Europe, but the rest of the world figured it was far more beneficial to destabilize the Middle East for the next couple centuries to make it easier to control the oil.
Israel will not stop till they own all the land in Palestine. They will continue to provoke the Palestinians until they reach their goal. Claiming they wanted peace the whole time. It's no wonder that their agent (Rahm) is defending their actions again. Until Obama cuts funding to Israeli terrorists this will never end. Money has always been how you get their attention.
Settlements are just an excuse. Learn the history.
As it was so perfectly put "There will be peace when Palestinian mothers love their children more than they hate Israel."
Does this photo makes Emanuel look sinister or is it just me?
This is the absolute truth:
If Palestinians laid down their weapons, so would the Israelis.
If Israelis laid down their weapons, the Palestinians would attack.
I hate to say, but the statement is typical jewish. I don't think the Palestinians have any chances to get any land back from Israel when you have such character in the White House.
If the US stopped sending money/aid to these countries in the Middle East, then I think they could be "persuaded" to sit down at a table and negotiate. I, for one, am tired of flushing our tax dollars down the drain for non-Americans!
This President see Israel only with his muslim world view. They should not listen to his planted political mouth piece who wants his leader to win. Disgraceful and shame on Emanuel, if you blink then President Obama will be held up as the peace negotiator. Political shame on America, first Sec Clinton and now the White House Hit Man twist Israel in the wind. Please, do not give money to Obama and the democrats.
Oh my gosh the Hammas in Palestine shoot rockets in to Israel and after month of this them try to stop it the it's Israels fault. So let me get this straight If someone shoots at me and I decide to shoot back its all my fault. It sounds like rational thinking to me.
Saying settlements shouldn't stand in the way of peace is kind of like saying we shouldn't let all of this gunfire and rocket explosions stand in the way of peace.
Israel is not perfect but is truly a society that grants full rights to women, minorities and homosexuals... and yet some people in the states wonder why they're our allies?
As long as the Palestinians engage in barbaric rockets attacks on civilians, kidnappings and suicide bombings there will be no peace.
No sympathy for terrorists!
You people know you don't want peace. That is unless Irsael folds up and fades away. Praise OBAMA praise ALLAH. He's the kiss ,,,!!!