Obama Visits Yad Vashem, Pushes Two-State Solution

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- President Obama began the last day of his Israel trip visiting sites commemorating the past of the Jewish people.

He visited Mt. Herzl Cemetery where he placed a wreath at the grave of Theordore Herzl, the founder of modern Zionism. He then went to Israel's national Holocaust memorial, Yad Vashem.

But the centerpiece of the president's visit took place when he bypassed Israeli leaders and spoke directly to hundreds of university students and several thousand Israelis in Jerusalem.

He thrilled Israelis when he affirmed the country's right to exist.

"Make no mistake, those that adhere to the ideology of rejecting Israel's right to exist they might as well reject the earth beneath them or the sky above because Israel's not going anywhere," Obama said.

Strong comments about Hezbollah also drew applause.

"Every country that values justice should call Hezbollah what it truly is -- a terrorist organization," he charged.

The main point of Obama's speech came when he advocated two states for two peoples.

"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," he said.

But a number of Israelis don't trust that solution.

"By the way, it is not a solution. If it were achieved it would be the prelude to another belligerence and not a solution at all," Dani Dayon, former head of the Yesha Council, an umbrella group representing Israelis in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, said.

Obama blamed settlements of Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria as an obstacle to peace.

"Israelis must recognize that continued settlement activity is counterproductive to the cause of peace, and that an independent Palestine must be viable -- that real borders will have to be drawn," the president said.

Obama called the Palestinian Authority and Mahmoud Abbas partners for peace. But Itamar Marcus, director of Palestinian Media Watch, says Abbas sends a different message to his people.

"(The) Palestinian Authority glorifies terrorists, honors them, names summer camps after them, names soccer tournaments after them," Marcus charged.

"The message to the people is that if you kill Israelis you're a Palestinian hero," he said. "That message is coming from (Prime Minister) Salaam Fayyad and (President) Mahmoud Abbas."

Meanwhile, Obama encouraged Israel's youth to pressure their politicians.

"Let me say this as a politician, I can promise you this: political leaders will never take risks if the people do not push them. You must create the change that you want to see," he told the crowd.

The Iran issue, however, may overshadow any change between Israelis and Palestinians. While Obama spoke to Israel's youth, Iran's supreme leader said Iran would destroy Israeli cities Haifa and Tel Aviv if any nation attacks their nuclear program.

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Chris Mitchell

Chris Mitchell

CBN News Middle East Bureau Chief

In a time where the world's attention is riveted on events in the Middle East, CBN viewers have come to appreciate Chris Mitchell's timely reports from this explosive region of the world. Mitchell brings a Biblical and prophetic perspective to these daily news events that shape our world.