[Video below.] President Barack Obama today issued his annual Rosh Hashanah greeting, urging Israelis and Palestinians to seize the opportunity for peace as Jews across the world prepare to mark the new year.Obama’s message comes as Israeli and Palestinian leaders gird for a second round of Middle East peace talks, which kicked off last week in Washington, with the U.S. president staking much political capital on seeking an end to the decades-old conflict.
Unlike Obama, previous presidents have waited until their second term of office to tackle this knottiest of diplomatic challenges.
“At a time when Israelis and Palestinians have returned to direct dialogue, it is up to us to encourage and support those who are willing to move beyond their differences and work towards security and peace in the Holy Land,” Obama said.
But while offering hope, he also sought to dampen expectations.
“Progress will not come easy, it will not come quick. But today we had an opportunity to move forward, toward the goal we share-two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security,” he said.
Obama’s backing is vital if the early meetings in Washington, hailed by observers as a success, are to retain their initial momentum.
Already today, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called on America to step in to salvage the discussions as a scheduled end to Israel’s self-imposed freeze on settlement building in the West Bank looms.
Israel declared the 10-month freeze, which covers all territory beyond the Green Line, excluding East Jerusalem, last year – but has so far resisted international calls for its renewal when it expires on September 26.
Prime Minister Netanyahu, meanwhile, faces heavy pressure from within his right-wing coalition to let construction restart. If that happens, Abbas could make good his threat to abandon talks altogether.
Click below to watch President Obama’s message:
The following is a transcript of Obama’s message:
As Jews in America and around the world celebrate the first of the High Holy Days I want to extend my warmest wishes for the New Year. Leshana tovah tikateivu – may you be inscribed and sealed in the Book of Life.
Rosh Hashanah marks the beginning of the spiritual calendar and the birth of the world. It serves as a reminder of the special relationship between God and his children, now and always. And it calls us to look within ourselves – to repent for our sins; recommit ourselves to prayer; and remember the blessings that come from helping those in need.
Today, those lessons ring as true as they did thousands of years ago. And as we begin this New Year, it is more important than ever to believe in the power of humility and compassion to deepen our faith and repair our world.
At a time when too many of our friends and neighbors are struggling to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads, it is up to us to do what we can to help those less fortunate.
At a time when prejudice and oppression still exist in the shadows of our society, it is up to us to stand as a beacon of freedom and tolerance and embrace the diversity that has always made us stronger as a people.
And at a time when Israelis and Palestinians have returned to direct dialogue, it is up to us to encourage and support those who are willing to move beyond their differences and work towards security and peace in the Holy Land. Progress will not come easy, it will not come quick. But today we had an opportunity to move forward, toward the goal we share-two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security.
The scripture teaches us that there is “a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.” In this season of repentance and renewal, let us commit ourselves to a more hopeful future.
Michelle and I wish all who celebrate Rosh Hashanah a sweet year full of health and prosperity.