November 10th, 2009
04:00 PM ET
13 years ago

Emanuel: Settlement issue should not block Mideast peace

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Emanuel filled in for President Barack Obama, who canceled his scheduled appearance to attend the Fort Hood memorial service."]
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.

Filed under: Middle East • Rahm Emanuel
soundoff (44 Responses)
  1. g

    why would isreal want peace the USA pays for there war,s

    November 10, 2009 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  2. Eisener

    I respectfully disagree with Emanuel and the White House on this. I am a white Scandinavian living in the US – no relation to any one side in this thousands-years-matter. But how on earth can two parties sit down to talk on how to 'split the cake,' if one party refuses up-front to keep stealing from the other?

    November 10, 2009 07:16 pm at 7:16 pm |
  3. LacrosseMom

    The U.S. which SEND BILLIONS to Israel, has to reign them in. They can not continue to make war, and disenfranchise the Palestinians.

    TAKING LAND AWAY from Palestinians is not the right of Israel.

    The GOP refuses to side on the side of sanity and peace.

    The ONLY way Israel will have peace, and security is to stop taking Palestinian land, stop building settlements.

    There is a growing peace movement in Israel, I pray, that the reasonable, sane voices of the Peacemakers in Israel will prevail.

    Giving the Palestinians a homeland, will help us fight more terrorist than killing in wars.

    November 10, 2009 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
  4. victim of democrat hypocrisy

    What? You mean Arabs and Israelis still don't get along? But Rahm–HOPE...CHANGE...I thought all we had to do was elect The Chosen One and magically peace would reign all over the world. Guess we were all duped.

    November 10, 2009 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  5. Larry

    Israel has been stealing Palestinian land for well over 40 years, and all with a wink from the US government


    Israel is a terrorist nation with Americas help

    Absolutely Shameful !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    November 10, 2009 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  6. D.

    Rookie administration mistake signals in Obama's lecture to the Muslim world that Israel must stop settlements– a condition that never stopped past peace negotiations. This was a signal that Israel will be pushed by the USA and guess what... the "peace loving" Arab leaders use this to avoid entering into negotiations.
    Where was a bigger misunderstanding than this in US foreign policy? Since when a state senator turned campaigner knows world affairs to have the audacity to by himself start a new tone with no understanding of consequences and ignoring the intentions of sides (namely, the Arabs wanting to eliminate Israel with the help of the UN, USA, the world's well-intended left, the world anti semitic forces, and so on...).
    What a rookie mistake!!!!!!!!!

    November 10, 2009 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  7. Jean

    If we could run this movie projector backwards we would no doubt see that Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, 9/11, marines barracks bombing in Beirut, collapse of our economy, etc., could all be traced back to the Palestinian/Israeli conflict.

    What a price to pay! And for what??!!

    November 10, 2009 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  8. John

    How can there be a settlement with continued Israeli settlements on Arab lands?

    November 10, 2009 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  9. Call Terminex

    Talk about Israel and the anti-semites come out of the woodwork...

    November 10, 2009 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  10. Scott, Tucson

    As if the Israelis are going to trust anything coming from this administration, at least they didn't drink the same obama Kool-Aid as the lemmings here did.

    November 10, 2009 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  11. Henry Miller, Libertarian

    You know those old gangster movies where there's this smart-but-not-too-big, Jimmy Cagney, kind of gangster boss with a couple of huge, dumb, goons backing him up? That's the US and Israel–and we're the big, dumb, goons.

    Israel is not our ally!

    They're a constant embarrassment to us and our outrageously one-sided defence of every bit of aggression, incitement, terrorism, and oppression they inflict on their neighbours has ruined, probably for generations to come, our relationship with the world's Muslims.

    Far from "reaffirming our commitment to Israel," we should be cutting the country loose to live, or die, by its own efforts.

    Of course, even a cursory read of Rahm Emanuel's bio suggests that his allegiance to Israel is stronger than his allegiance to the US...

    November 10, 2009 08:08 pm at 8:08 pm |
  12. YBM

    Rahm just looks evil. He is only missing the horns and tail, or maybe they just aren't visible yet. The Israeli's should bomb the muslims out of existence. That would solve the problem.

    November 10, 2009 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  13. Ted from Calif.

    If the Israelis want perpetual war, they should keep building settlements. If not, they should negotiate in good faith.

    November 10, 2009 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  14. JonDie

    Israeli settlements have KILLED the peace process. Emmanuel is an idiot.

    November 10, 2009 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  15. Johnny DC

    Since when do Palestinians care about what's right and what's wrong? Is this some kind of sick joke?

    Any attack ever issued by Israel in it's short history have been either (A) a strike for defense purposes to cease incoming attacks, or (B) a precise attack on a military target.

    Arab people think they can hide their rockets in schools and hospitals and then scream outrage when civilians become casualties. Stupid, stupid people with no logic and no business existing in the modern world.

    November 10, 2009 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  16. Kevin

    Ssrael`s Strategy:

    Take Palestinian land by force, put civilians on it then accuse them of targeting civilians when they fight back to take their land.

    November 10, 2009 09:01 pm at 9:01 pm |
  17. Mike

    Did withdrawal from gaza bring peace, no it brought rockets. The fact of the matter is Israel has been pressured for concessions to get to the peace table. It has given some concessions and that hasn't limited attacks. It seems pretty fruitless to me for Israel to give anything else without a committment to peace from the Palestinians, the same ones who don't recognize Israels right to exist. It seems to me it's time for Palestine to demonstrate that they want peace.

    November 10, 2009 09:04 pm at 9:04 pm |
  18. Please stopr censoring...thx S Callahan

    Make no mistake that God's right hand protects Israel, but that will not justify those who do wrong in his sight. You can not force peace, that can only come from what God allows. Why rush? The Lord still has much saving to do, are you ready?

    November 10, 2009 09:05 pm at 9:05 pm |
  19. jules sand-perkins

    Not only does Israel continue to build settlements in what it might agree to allow to become a Palestinian area. Israel insists that Palestinians' "state" would have to be UNARMED.
    NO state is really a state if it has to be unarmed.
    That's like the mare that my grandfather said belonged to me when I was three years old.

    November 11, 2009 08:35 am at 8:35 am |
1 2