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Obama: Despite Challenges, Middle East Peace Achievable

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President Barack Obama renewed his call for peace in the Middle East on Wednesday, pressing both the Israeli and the Palestinian governments to work together.

Speaking before the United Nations General Assembly, Obama expressed his frustration over the failure of both sides to reach an agreement and his frustration with the Palestinian leader for planning to seek a declaration of statehood through the UN security council.

He also strongly pressed the need to maintain Israel's security.

"There is no shortcut to the end of a conflict that has endured for decades. Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the UN. If it were that easy, it would have been accomplished by now," Obama said.

Obama said compromise must be between the people who live together and that history proves it.

"That's the lesson of northern Island, where ancient antagonists erased their differences. That's the lesson of Sudan, where negotiated settlement led to an independent state," the president said. "That is and will be the path to a Palestinian state."

The speech also touched on a number of other international issues, including the recent fight for democracy in Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya; the current unrest in Syria and the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Afterwards, the president met with Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu, who echoed his call for direct peace talks.

"Palestinians deserve a state, but it's a state that has to make that peace with Israel. Therefore their attempt to shortcut this process, not negotiate a peace, that attempt to get membership, state membership through the United Nations will not succeed," Netanyahu said.

The prime minister also thanked Obama "for standing with Israel and supporting peace through direct negotiations."

Obama later met with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to try to convince him to not ask for UN recognition of statehood, as the United States would veto that in the Security Council.

Abbas could still ask for the veto-proof General Assembly to recognize the Palestinians with observer status.

Vera Jelinek of the New York University Center for Global Affairs said that move could give Palestinians rights to certain treaties that could include the international criminal court.

"It would certainly increase their stature and credibility," said Jelinek. "The Palestinians could challenge certain actions of Israel. Let's say, the Gaza invasions, incursions."

She said Israeli leaders would not want that either, and that could leave Obama vulnerable domestically.

The Republican presidential field continues to attack Obama for not supporting Israel enough, a perception Obama may have been trying to dispel in the speech that did not criticize Israel.

Meanwhile, there were dueling protests outside the United Nations earlier Wednesday both for and against a bid for the world body to recognize a Palestinian state.

Hundreds of pro-Israel demonstrators said the only way to achieve peace was through direct talks, while a smaller group of Palestinian supporters called on the United Nations to act quickly.

"Enough is enough. Forty years of oppression and occupation and lack of freedom for the Palestinian people. They deserve a state. Majorities of people everywhere think the Palestinians deserve a state. It's time for the United Nations to grant that right," said Avaaz Executive Director Ricken Patel.

"We do believe that the only true solution to the problem will come through negotiations and mutual understanding. Palestinians should be speaking to the Israeli government, not to the UN," said Jerusalem Institute of Justice founder Calev Myers.

While the pro-Israel protesters were clearly more vocal, those supporting the Palestinian bid for statehood said the majority of the world is behind them.

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