JERUSALEM, March 21 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Barack Obama urged Israel's young generation to push for ending a decades-long conflict with the Palestinians, assuring the Israeli public that it has the unshakeable U.S. support for making the sweeping changes required to forge a lasting peace.
"Look to a future in which Jews, Muslims and Christians can all live in peace and greater prosperity in this Holy Land," Obama told a crowd of university students in Jerusalem Thursday evening, in a keynote speech culminating his visit to Israel.
"Look to the future that you want for your own children, a future in which a Jewish democratic state is protected and accepted, for this time and for all time," he said, garnering a roaring ovation of approval.
Achieving this goal hinges on realizing the two-state solution, said Obama, who earlier in the day addressed Palestinians in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
"Given the demographics west of the Jordan River, the only way for Israel to endure and thrive as a Jewish and democratic state is through the realization of an independent and viable Palestine. Given the frustration in the international community, Israel must reverse an undertow of isolation," Obama said.
The only way to "truly protect" the Israeli people, he noted, " is through the absence of war, because no wall is high enough, and no Iron dome is strong enough, to stop every enemy from inflicting harm."
Stressing that Israel has contended with Palestinian factions who resorted to terror, Obama said Israel's security "must be at the center" of a peace agreement, and that peace will only be achieved through negotiations, expressing his belief that Israelis have "a true partner" in Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.
At the same time, "the Palestinian people's right to self- determination and justice must also be recognized," Obama said, asking his audience to put themselves in the Palestinians' shoes.
"It is not fair that a Palestinian child cannot grow up in a state of her own, and lives with the presence of a foreign army that controls the movement of her parents. It is not just when settler violence against Palestinians goes unpunished. It is not right to prevent Palestinians from farming their lands; to restrict a student's ability to move around the West Bank; or to displace Palestinian families from their home. Just as Israelis built a state in their homeland, Palestinians have a right to be a free people in their own land."
Obama encouraged both Israelis and Palestinians to adopt a proactive approach to peace-making, not rely on politicians to bring about an end to the conflict.
Peace, said the U.S. leader, "must be made among peoples, not just governments. No one step can change overnight what lies in the hearts and minds of millions. But progress with the Palestinians is a powerful way to begin, while sidelining extremists who thrive on conflict and division."
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