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Special Coverage of President Obama's Address to the United Nations Including President's Remarks

Aired September 21, 2011 - 10:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Let me just -- I'm going to bring Jamie Rubin in and David Gergen, but Jessica, have you heard any serious discussion from White House officials or Obama administration officials at all?

They don't want to eliminate U.S. aide to the Palestinian authority to the West Bank and I don't believe they want to cut U.S. financial contributions to the United Nations, but maybe you have more information than I do.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: No, I see this as a nonstarter for them, Wolf. F or the president, the United Nations is an important international body and my expectation is what they would say is let's see this play out here before we get to jumping the gun and talking about cutting off aid.

They in essence don't see this as coming to a head quite yet, the Palestinians are loading the gun, so to speak, by threatening to take this to the Security Council. But that doesn't mean they necessarily will and there's still a lot of hope that that can be averted.

And that there are many steps that can be taken to avoid that kind of a confrontation so there's a lot of hope that there can be other ways to resolve this and potentially, although it's a great big wish and with some sort of peace negotiation starting again.

But at the very least, to avoid consulate and the idea of cutting off aid is not something that this administration is toying with in any way.

BLITZER: Jamie Rubin, you know, at a time of economic hardship, the U.S. economy obviously not in great shape right now, there's enormous pressure to cut spending across the board, foreign aid as you well know has never been very popular with domestic public opinion.

So there is a community out there and Illiana Ross Lleyton, the chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee certainly reflecting that in what you just told us, that you know what? At a time of economic distress, the United States should not be sending off this money around to the world.

JAMES RUBIN, FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, I think you're absolutely right, Wolf and I think with A Republican Congress and potentially increased support for these kinds of positions. It's tougher and tougher. But this has been going on a long time through Republican and Democratic administrations. In effect the U.N. is a gigantic messenger of world opinion. And what Illiana Ross Lleyton and some of her colleagues are frustrated by is that America's just not very popular.

And American policies are not very popular right now and through the United Nations, it gets thrown back at us and we see this very visibly here in New York. But the really is, the ambassador said that we use the U.N. for American security purposes.

We use the United Nations as we did in the case of Libya to get authority to have NATO overthrow Moammar Gadhafi. We used under President Bush the United Nations to get authority to invade Afghanistan.

So the United Nations is really a reflection of world opinion and we can worry about it and be frustrated by it, but these specific programs that Illiana Ross Lleyton is talking about, some are frustrating, but in general it serves our interest.

I would just add another one point, Wolf, with regard to these two hikers. You know, what we're seeing today is the goal of President Ahmadinejad. He arranged for these two people to be released, timing it precisely for his arrival here at the United Nations.

And so this is going like clockwork for him to show the world as he arrives here in New York and he gives this speech that he's the moderate. And the really troubling part is he is the moderate.

Right now, Ahmadinejad is the moderate in Iran and he wants the world to see him arranging for these hikers to be released on the very day he's arriving in New York. So he's getting his PR victory here.

BLITZER: Good point. Excellent, Jamie. Thanks for that. Let me bring David Gergen into this, but you know, the thrill of isolationist mood among some in Congress right now, and I don't if Illiana Ross Lleyton is part of that.

But there is an increasingly isolationist mood, Ron Paul for example, a Republican presidential candidate suggesting you know what? The U.S. spending too much money and when a lot of Americans hear that the U.S. is spending $7 billion or $8 billion a year contributing to the United Nations, they say, you know what? That money is better spent here at home or reducing the deficit.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: We're spending hundreds of billions of dollars on war and this is an effort to spend money on peace and it's not very big. I'm just confused now. The Republican Party has changed a lot in the last few years, Wolf.

And I'm not quite sure how these leaders of the Republican Party expect to win the war on terror and to bring peace to the Middle East anymore because they argue that the war on terror against Jihadist, Muslims, many of them are in these Arab countries. The way to do this is just to be on the war front, but also George W. Bush was trying to build democracies and work with the Arab people. In the last few days, what we have been hearing are a group of Republican leaders who are turning their backs on Arab aspirations and Arab hopes for the region.

And the hard part of diplomacy is to protect Israel's interest while also working with the Arabs. To cut off money to the Palestinians like that, to cut off money to the west bank where Abbas has been, you know, building infrastructure, has been making economic progress, and where Netanyahu himself wants to provide money from the U.S. to the West Bank.

I don't get this sudden turning on your heel against the Arab aspirations, wrapping yourself around Israel and sort of making it so one sided. The best Republican progress has been made by people like George W. Bush Senior with Jim Baker as the secretary of state where they work for a balanced approach, where they work with the Arabs and with the Israelis to try to bring progress.

BLITZER: And as we await the president's remarks. He's getting ready to speak momentarily at the U.N. General Assembly. Ambassador, you served in the Republican administration to President George W. Bush as you point out, U.S. ambassador to the U.N., to Iraq, to Afghanistan, are you concerned about this isolationist trend? At least some Republicans are expressing now.

ZALMAY KHALILZAD, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: I am concerned. I think there is an economic situation worsened. The desire to focus more at home, which to a degree is legitimate. We need to get our economic house in order, but I also agree with David Gergen that we need to be mindful that there's a struggle going on for the Middle East among the Muslims and the extremists.

Jihadists are a product of the frustrations and failures of the countries of the area and one of the factors that contribute to that dysfunctionality of that region that produces extremism is the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian problem.

It's served our interests, it served Israeli interests for us to be able to influence in the region and to encourage moderation and therefore to be engaged and to work for a settlement of the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Coming home is not an option. The world is too interconnected for us to come home America be our slogan.

BLITZER: A good point. Thanks very much. I want to play two clips right now as we await the president of the United States and then I want to discuss what we're about to hear.

Rick Perry, the Republican presidential front-runner right now. He met with Jewish leaders here in New York yesterday and he said this. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're equally indignant of the Obama administration and their Middle East policy of appeasement that has encouraged such an ominous act of bad faith. Simply put, we would not be here today at this very precipice of such a dangerous move if the Obama policy in the Middle East wasn't naive, and arrogant, misguided and dangerous.


BLITZER: You just heard Rick Perry accusing the Obama administration of appeasements, a strong word with a lot of history there. Now last night, the Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak was a guest on "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT." Here's an exchange that Piers had with Ehud Barak.


EHUD BARACK, FORMER ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: I will tell you honestly that the Obama administration is making the security of Israel for which I'm responsible in our government in a way that could hardly be compared to any previous administration.

PIERS MORGAN, HOST, "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT": Is Barack Obama in your view, in your very experienced in this. Is he a friend of Israel?

BARAK: I see this first of all is the president of America, he is friendly to Israel's security related issues. He's also trying to be even handed with the Palestinians. I don't think he's part of the problem. He's part of the solution.


BLITZER: A nice vote of confidence from the president of the United States from the Israeli defense minister. David Gergen, as you watch all of this play out, you know, a lot of people have pointed out that, you know, you hear Rick Perry, the Republican presidential candidate.

He comes to New York on the eve of this very sensitive moment here at the United Nations General Assembly, the president about to speak. There could be a Security Council meeting at any moment this week on Palestinian state and all of this.

And here he is slamming the president of appeasement if you will. Tossing he's naive, arrogant, misguided, dangerous, at this sensitive moment.

The question for you, David, as someone who's worked for four presidents, is it appropriate at a sensitive diplomatic moment like this, for a politician to come to New York and effectively undermine the president of the United States.

GERGEN: Wolf, 10 years ago, 20 years ago, it would have been totally inappropriate, because there were sort of rules of etiquette. You didn't do that to a president. You didn't upstage him just before he went to the U.N. You didn't throw a hand grenade in the middle of such a delicate situation. But you know, all the rules of politics have seemed to have gone out the window here. So it's no longer - I don't think we know anymore what's appropriate. It seems to be let it all hang out. Do whatever the hell you want and I think it makes it much, much more difficult for the U.S. to ---

BLITZER: Now you see that the president of the United States is seated there in the United Nations General Assembly. He's being introduced to the General Assembly and the president is getting ready to speak.

We expect that he'll be speaking at for a half an hour, maybe a little bit longer, and he's not only going to talk about the Middle East and the Arab Spring, the dramatic developments, but talking about the whole world, all of the issues including Libya, Syria, everything else around the world, U.S. involvement. So let's listen to the president right now.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Mr. President, Mr. Secretary General, fellow delegates. Ladies and gentlemen.

It is a great honor for me to be here with you today, I want to talk about a subject that is at the heart of the United Nations, the pursuit of peace in an imperfect world. War and conflict have been with us since the beginning of civilizations.

But in the first part of the 20th century, the advance of modern weaponry led to death on a staggering scale. It was this killing that compelled the founders of this body to build an institution that was focused not just on ending one war, but on averting others.

A union of sovereign states that would seek to prevent conflict while also addressing it's causes. No American did more to pursue this objective than President Franklin Roosevelt. He knew that a victory in war was not enough.

As he said at one of the very first meetings on the founding of the United Nations, we have got to make not merely peace, but a peace that will last. The men and women who built this institution understood that peace is more than just the absence of war, a lasting peace, for nations, and for individuals depends on a sense of justice and opportunity, of dignity, and freedom.

It depends on struggle, on sacrifice, on compromise, and on a sense of common humanity. One delegate to the San Francisco conference that led to the creation of the United Nations put it well. Many people, she said, have talked as if all that has to be done to get peace was to say loudly and frequently that we love peace and we hated war.

Now we have learned that no matter how much we love peace and hate war, we cannot avoid having war brought upon us if there are convulsions in other parts of the world. The fact is, peace is hard, but our people demand it. Over nearly seven decades, even as the United Nations helped avert a third world war, we still live in a world scarred by conflict and plagued by poverty. Even as we proclaim our love for peace and our hatred of war, there are still convulsions in our world that endanger us all.

I took office at a time of two wars for the United States, more over the violent extremists who drew us into war in the first place Osama Bin Laden. His al Qaeda organization remained at large. Today, we have set a new direction.

At the end of this year, America's military operation in Iraq will be over. We will have a normal relationship with a sovereign nation that is a member of the community of nations. That equal partnership will be strengthened by our support for Iraq, for its government, and for its security forces, for its people, and for their aspirations.

As we end the war in Iraq, the United States and our coalition partners have begun a transition in Afghanistan, which we now in 2014, an increasingly capable Afghan government and security forces will step forward to take responsibility for the future of their country. As they do, we are drawing down our own forces while building an enduring partnership with the Afghan people.

So let there be no doubt, the tide of war is receding. When I took office roughly 180,000 Americans were serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. By the end of this year, that number will be cut in half and will continue to decline.

This is critical for the sovereignty of Iraq and Afghanistan, and it's also critical to the sovereignty of the United States as we build our nation at home. Moreover we are poised to end this war from a position of strength.

Ten years ago there was an open wound and twisted steel, a broken heart in the center of this city. Today, as a new tower is rising at ground zero. It symbolizes New York's renewal, even as al Qaeda is under more pressure than ever before. It's leadership has been degraded.

Osama Bin Laden, a man who murdered thousands of people from dozens of countries will never endanger the peace of the world again. Yes, this has been a difficult decade, but today, we stand at a crossroads of history with a chance to move decisively in the direction of peace.

To do so, we must return to the wisdom of those who created this institution. The United Nations founding charter calls upon us to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security and Article 1 of this general assembly's universal declaration of human rights reminds us that all human beings are born equal in dignity and in rights.

Those bedrock beliefs in the responsibility of states and the rights of men and women must be our guide. And in that effort, we have reason to hope. This year has been a time of extraordinary transformation. More nations have stepped forward to maintain international peace and security.

And more individuals are claiming their universal right to live in freedom and dignity. Think about it. One year ago, when we met here in New York, the prospect of a successful referendum in South Sudan was in doubt. But the international community overcame old divisions to support the agreement that had been negotiated to give South Sudan self-determination.

And last summer, as a new flag went up in Juma, former soldiers laid down their arms, men and women wept with joy and children finally knew the promise of looking to a future that they will shape. One year ago, the people of Potowa, approached a landmark election and when the incumbent lost and refused to respect the results.

The world refused looked the other way. U.N. peacekeepers were harassed, but they did not leave their posts. The Security Council led by the United States and Nigeria and France came together to support the will of the people. And Kotobwar is now governed by the man who was elected to lead.

One year ago, the hopes of the people of Tunisia were suppressed. But they chose the dignity of the peaceful protests over the rule of an iron fist. A bender lit a spark that took his own life, but he ignited a movement in the face of a crackdown, students spelled out the word freedom.

The balance of fear shifted from the ruler to those that he ruled. And now the people of Tunisia are preparing for elections that will move them one step closer to the democracy that they deserve.

One year ago, Egypt had known one president for nearly 30 years. But for 18 days, the eyes of the world were glued to Tahrir Square where Egyptians from all walks of life, men and women, young and old, Muslim and Christian, demanded their universal rights.

We saw in those protesters the moral force of nonviolence that has left the world from deli to South Africa. And we knew that change had come to Egypt and to the Arab world. One year ago, the people of Libya were ruled by the world's longest serving dictator.

But faced with bullets and bombs and a dictator who threatened to hunt them down like rats, they showed relentless bravery. We will never forget the words of the Libyan who stood up in those early days of revolution and said, our words are free now. It's a feeling you can't explain.

Day after day in the face of bullets and bombs, the Libyan people refused to give back that freedom. And when they were threatened by the kind of mass atrocity that often went unchallenged in the last century, the United Nations lived up to its charter.

The Security Council authorized all necessary measures to prevent a massacre. The Arab League called for this effort, Arab nations joined a NATO led coalition that halted Gadhafi's forces in their tracks.

In the months that followed, the will of the coalition proved unbreakable and the will of the Libyan people could not be denied. Forty two years of tyranny was ended in six months. From Tripoli to Misrata to Benghazi to date Libya is free. Yesterday, the leaders of a new Libya took their rightful place beside us.

And this week, the United States is reopening our embassy in Tripoli. This is how the international community is supposed to work, nations standing together for sake of peace and security and individuals claiming their rights.

Now all of us have a responsibility to support the new Libya, the new Libyan government as they confront the challenge of turning this moment of promise into a just and lasting peace for all Libyans. So this has been a remarkable year. The Gadhafi regime is over.

Ben Ali, Mubarak, are no longer in power. Osama Bin Laden is gone and the idea that change could only come through violence has been buried with him. Something's happening in our world. The way things have been is not the way that they will be. The humiliating grip of corruption and tyranny is being pried open, dictators are on notice. Technology is putting power into the hands of the people. The youth are delivering a powerful rebuke to dictatorship and rejecting the lie that some races, some peoples, some religions, some ethnicities do not desire democracy.

The promise written down on paper, all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights, is closer at hand. But let us remember peace is hard. Peace is hard. Progress can be reversed. Prosperity comes slowly. Societies can split apart. The measure of our success must be weather people can live in sustained freedom, dignity and security.

And the United Nations and its member states must do their part to support those basic aspirations and we have more work to do. In Iran, we have seen a government that refuses to recognize the rights of its own people.

As we meet here today, men, women and children are being or tortured, detained and murdered by the Syrian regime. Thousands have been killed, many during the holy time of Ramadan. Thousands more have poured across Syria's borders.

The Syrian people have shown dignity and courage in their pursuit of justice, protesting peacefully, standing silently in the streets, dying for the same values that this institution is supposed to stand for.

The question for us is clear. Will we stand with the Syrian people or with their oppressors? Already the United States has imposed strong sanctions on Syria's leaders. We supported a transfer of power that was the response to the Syrian people.

And many of our allies have joined in this effort, but for the sake of Syria, and the peace and security of the world, we must speak with one voice. There's no excuse for inaction. Now is the time for the United Nations Security Council to sanction the Syrian regime and to stand with the Syrian people. Throughout the region, we will have to respond to the calls for change. In Yemen, men, women and children gathered by thousands in towns and city squares, every day with the hope that determination and spilled blood will prevail for a corrupt system.

America supports those aspirations. We must work with Yemen's neighbors and our partners around the world to seek a path that allows for a peaceful transition of power from President Saleh and a movement to free and fair elections as soon as possible.

In Bahrain, steps have been taken toward reform and accountability. We're pleased with that, but more is required. America is a close friend of Bahrain and we will continue to call on the government and the main opposition block that we've got to pursue a meaningful dialogue that brings peace and change that is responsive to the people.

We believe the patriotism that binds Bahrain together needs to be more powerful than the sectarian forces that will tear them apart. It will be hard, but it is possible. We believe that each nation must chart its own course to fulfill the aspirations of its people and America does not expect to agree with every party or person who expresses themselves politically.

But we will always stand up for the universal rights that we're embraced by this assembly. Those rights depend on elections that are free and fair. On governance that is transparent and accountable. Respect for the rights of women and minorities. Justice that is equal and fair.

That is what our people deserve. Those are the elements of peace that can last. Moreover, the United States will continue to support those nations that transition to democracy with greater trade and investment. So that freedom is followed by opportunity.

We will pursue a deeper engagement with governance, but also with civil societies, students and entrepreneurs, political parties and the press. We have banned those who abuse human rights from traveling to our country. We sanctioned those who trample on human rights abroad and we will always serve as a voice for those who have been silenced.

Now, I know particularly this week that for many in this home, there's one issue that stands as a test for these principles and a test for American foreign policy, and as the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

One year ago, I stood at this podium and I called for an independent Palestine. I believed then and I believe now that the Palestinian people deserve a state of their own. But what I also said is that a genuine peace can only be realized between the Israelis and the Palestinians themselves.

One year later, despite extensive efforts by America and others, the parties have not bridged their differences. Faced with this stalemate, I put forward a new basis for negotiations in May of this year. That basis is clear; it's well known to all of us here. Israelis must know that any agreement provides assurances for their security. Palestinians deserve to know the territorial basis of their state.

Now, I know that many are frustrated by the lack of progress. I assure you, so am I. But the question isn't the goal that we seek. The question is, how do we reach that goal?

And I am convinced that there is no shortcut to the end of a conflict that has endured for decades. Peace is hard work. Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the United Nations. If it were that easy, it would have been accomplished by now.

Ultimately, it is the Israelis and the Palestinians who must live side by side. Ultimately, it is the Israelis and the Palestinians -- not us -- who must reach agreement on the issues that divide them: on borders and on security, on refugees and Jerusalem.

Ultimately, peace depends upon compromise among people who must live together long after our speeches are over, long after our votes have been tallied. That's the lesson of Northern Ireland, where ancient antagonists bridged their differences. That's the lesson of Sudan, where a negotiated settlement led to an independent state. And that is and will be the path to a Palestinian state: negotiations between the parties.

We seek a future where Palestinians live in a sovereign state of their own, with no limit to what they can achieve. And there's no question that the Palestinians have seen that vision delayed for too long. And it is precisely because we believe so strongly in the aspirations of the Palestinian people that America has invested so much time and so much effort in the building of a Palestinian state and the negotiations that can deliver a Palestinian state.

But understand this, as well: America's commitment to Israel's security is unshakeable. Our friendship with Israel is deep and enduring. And so we believe that any lasting peace must acknowledge the very real security concerns that Israel faces every single day.

Let us be honest with ourselves. Israel is surrounded by neighbors that have waged repeated wars against it. Israel's citizens have been killed by rockets fired at their houses and suicide bombs on their buses. Israel's children come of age knowing that, throughout the region, other children are taught to hate them. Israel, a small country of less than 8 million people, look out at a world where leaders of much larger nations threaten to wipe it off the map.

The Jewish people carry the burden of centuries of exile and persecution and fresh memories of knowing that 6 million people were killed simply because of who they are. Those are facts; they cannot be denied.

The Jewish people have forged a successful state in their historic homeland. Israel deserves recognition. It deserves normal relations with its neighbors. And friends of the Palestinians do them no favors by ignoring this truth, just as friends of Israel must recognize the need to pursue a two-state solution with a secure Israel next to an independent Palestine.

That is the truth. Each side has legitimate aspirations. And that's part of what makes peace so hard. And the deadlock will only be broken when each side learns to stand in the other's shoes, each side can see the world through the other's eyes. That's what we should be encouraging. That's what we should be promoting.

This body -- founded, as it was, out of the ashes of war and genocide, dedicated, as it is, to the dignity of every single person -- must recognize the reality that is lived by both the Palestinians and the Israelis. The measure of our actions must always be whether they advance the right of Israeli and Palestinian children to live lives of peace and security and dignity and opportunity.

And we will only succeed in that effort if we can encourage the parties to sit down, to listen to each other, and to understand each other's hopes and each other's fears. That is the project to which America is committed. There are no shortcuts. And that is what the United Nations should be focused on in the weeks and months to come.

Now, even as we confront these challenges of conflict and revolution, we must also recognize -- we must also remind ourselves that peace is not just the absence of war. True peace depends upon creating the opportunity that makes life worth living. And to do that, we must confront the common enemies of humanity: nuclear weapons and poverty, ignorance and disease. These forces corrode the possibility of lasting peace, and together we're called upon to confront them.

To lift the specter of mass destruction, we must come together to pursue the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons. Over the last two years, we've begun to walk down that path.

Since our Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, nearly 50 nations have taken steps to secure nuclear materials from terrorists and smugglers. Next March, a summit in Seoul will advance our efforts to lock down all of them. The New START Treaty between the United States and Russia will cut our deployed arsenals to the lowest level in half a century, and our nations are pursuing talks on how to achieve even deeper reductions.

America will continue to work for a ban on the testing of nuclear weapons and the production of fissile material needed to make them.

And so we have begun to move in the right direction, and the United States is committed to meeting our obligations. But even as we meet our obligations, we've strengthened the treaties and institutions that help stop the spread of these weapons. And to do so, we must continue to hold accountable those nations that flout them.

The Iranian government cannot demonstrate that its program is peaceful, it has not met its obligations, and it rejects offers that would provide it with peaceful nuclear power.

North Korea has yet to take concrete steps towards abandoning its weapons and continues belligerent action against the South. There is a future of greater opportunity for the people of these nations if their governments meet their international obligations. But if they continue down a path that is outside international law, they must be met with greater pressure and isolation. That is what our commitment to peace and security demands.

To bring prosperity to our people, we must promote the growth that creates opportunity. In this effort, let us not forget that we've made enormous progress over the last several decades. Closed societies gave way to open markets. Innovation and entrepreneurship has transformed the way we live and the things that we do. Emerging economies from Asia to the Americas have lifted hundreds of millions of people from poverty. It's an extraordinary achievement.

And yet three years ago, we were confronted with the worst financial crisis in eight decades. And that crisis proved a fact that has become clearer with each passing year: Our fates are interconnected. In a global economy, nations will rise or fall together.

Today, we confront the challenges that have followed on the heels of that crisis. Around the world, recovery is still fragile. Markets remain volatile. Too many people are out of work; too many others are struggling just to get by.

We acted together to avert a depression in 2009. We must take urgent and coordinated action once more.

Here in the United States, I've announced a plan to put Americans back to work and jump-start our economy, at the same time as I'm committed to substantially reducing our deficits over time.

We stand with our European allies as they reshape their institutions and address their own fiscal challenges.

For other countries, leaders face a different challenge, as they shift their economy towards more self-reliance, boosting domestic demand while slowing inflation. So we will work with emerging economies that have rebounded strongly so that rising standards of living create new markets that promote global growth. That's what our commitment to prosperity demands.

To combat the poverty that punishes our children, we must act on the belief that freedom from want is a basic human right. The United States has made it a focus of our engagement abroad to help people to feed themselves. And today, as drought and conflict have brought famine to the Horn of Africa, our conscience calls on us to act.

Together, we must continue to provide assistance and support organizations that can reach those in need. And together, we must insist on unrestricted humanitarian access so that we can save the lives of thousands of men and women and children.

Our common humanity is at stake. Let us show that the life of a child in Somalia is as precious as any other. That is what our commitment to our fellow human beings demand. To stop disease that spreads across borders, we must strengthen our system of public health. We will continue the fight against HIV- AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria. We will focus on the health of mothers and of children. And we must come together to prevent, and detect, and fight every kind of biological danger, whether it's a pandemic like H1N1, or a terrorist threat, or a treatable disease.

This week, America signed an agreement with the World Health Organization to affirm our commitment to meet this challenge. And today, I urge all nations to join us in meeting the WHO's goal of making sure all nations have core capacities to address public health emergencies in place by 2012. That is what our commitment to the health of our people demands.

To preserve our planet, we must not put off action that climate change demands. We have to tap the power of science to save those resources that are scarce. And together, we must continue our work to build on the progress made in Copenhagen and Cancun so that all of the major economies here today follow through on the commitments that were made. Together, we must work to transform the energy that powers our economies and support others as they move down that path. That is what our commitment to the next generation demands.

And to make sure our societies reach their potential, we must allow our citizens to reach theirs. No country can afford the corruption that plagues the world like a cancer. Together, we must harness the power of open societies and open economies.

That's why we've partnered with countries from across the globe to launch a new partnership on open government that helps ensure accountability and helps to empower citizens.

No country should deny people their rights, the freedom of speech and freedom of religion, but also no country should deny people their rights because of who they love, which is why we must stand up for the rights of gays and lesbians everywhere.

And no country can realize its potential if half its population cannot reach theirs. This week, the United States signed a new Declaration on Women's Participation. Next year, we should each announce the steps we are taking to break down the economic and political barriers that stand in the way of women and girls. This is what our commitment to human progress demands.

I know there's no straight line to that progress, no single path to success. We come from different cultures and carry with us different histories. But let us never forget that even as we gather here as heads of different governments, we represent citizens who share the same basic aspirations: to live with dignity and freedom; to get an education and pursue opportunity; to love our families and love and worship our God; to live in the kind of peace that makes life worth living.

It is the nature of our imperfect world that we are forced to learn these lessons over and over again. Conflict and repression will endure so long as some people refuse to do unto others as we would have them do unto us.

And that is precisely why we have built institutions like this to bind our fates together, to help us recognize ourselves in each other, because those who came before us believed that peace is preferable to war, and freedom is preferable to suppression, and prosperity is preferable to poverty. That's the message that comes not from capitals, but from citizens, from our people.

And when the cornerstone of this very building was put in place, President Truman came here to New York and said, "The United Nations is essentially an expression of the moral nature of man's aspirations." The moral nature of man's aspirations. As we live in a world that is changing at a breathtaking pace, that's a lesson that we must never forget.

Peace is hard, but we know that it is possible. So together, let us be resolved to see that it is defined by our hopes and not by our fears. Together, let us make peace, but a peace, most importantly, that will last.

Thank you very much. Thank you.


BLITZER: The president of the United States addressing the United Nations General Assembly, addressing a whole range of international issues.

But the biggest single part of the speech involving the Israeli- Palestinian conflict, once again, saying the United States supports the creation of a Palestinian state, a Palestinian state living alongside Israel. But that state should come about through negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians, not -- the president says -- through any shortcut that would end this conflict by a United Nations resolution or some sort of statement.

There's a lot to assess from what we just heard from the president, he's getting ready to have separate meetings today with the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas. We'll watch the president begin to leave the general assembly.

We'll take a quick break, we'll assess with an outstanding panel of experts who are all here in the CNN NEWSROOM, including Zalmay Khalilzad, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Jami Rubin, former assistant secretary of state, our chief White House correspondent Jessica Yellin -- she's over at the United Nations -- and our senior political analyst, David Gergen. They're standing by.

We'll be right back.



JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: -- the Jewish people of Israel, using language that American Jewish voters, Democratic Jewish voters have been calling on the president to use for some time, describing Israel as a nation surrounded by neighbors that have waged wars against it, calling Israel a country that looks out surrounded by nations that threaten to wipe it off the map, even referencing the Holocaust.

Again, these are the kinds of words and language that many of these Jewish voters you and I have talked about for some time had said they would like to hear from the president. We heard it here in this room.

Now, no doubt, there are some Arab supporters of the Palestinians who have expressed frustration to me in the past, in the lead-up to this event, who believe that the president's rhetoric on freedom and the speech he gave in Cairo standing up for the freedom of all peoples in the Middle East, has set up expectations that seem very much at odds with the reality of the peace process that has fallen through for the Palestinians to date.

And so, I wouldn't be surprised if there's some frustration on the Arab side with these very words, but to me that language was striking, Wolf.

BLITZER: You make a good point, Jessica.

Jamie Rubin, you didn't -- you heard that very robust statement of support for Israel, from the president, you didn't hear any condemnation of the Israeli military occupation or Israeli occupation practices in the West Bank or what's happening in Gaza, Jessica suggests the Arabs might react negatively to that imbalance.

Is that a problem?


Look, this was, as you said before hand, Wolf, this had two audiences with the Republican politicians coming to New York and saying he was somehow anti-Israel, I think it was certainly part of the president's challenge to show a full throated defense, not just of our commitment to Israel, but an understanding of the plight of Jews and Israelis in the world. He did that very well.

What I think was missing was he didn't explain the plight of Palestinians, who have been waiting for their 40 years for their state and although he was very eloquent about the Arab spring, it was almost as an observer -- the United States as an observer of all these events pointing out how great they were -- and the peace that therefore was missing was the Palestinians see themselves as a people who want their self-determination, their freedom.

And I think the way he could have done that, which is something that should be done more and more, is basically pointing out that the Palestinians have an engaged in large scale peaceful protests the way that peoples in Tunisia and Egypt and initially in Libya did. And he could have tied it together in that way. But it was a political speech both in terms of pulling our troops out of Afghanistan and Iraq, and getting bin Laden, and meeting the Israeli test and I think he never really made the argument for why we're going to veto the resolution on the Palestinian state, and I think that piece of it was absent.

BLITZER: Yes, that point, though, being basically the only way a Palestinian state can be created is if it's through negotiations directly between the Israelis and the Palestinians, not through any United Nations resolution.

Let me go to the Ambassador Khalilzad to weight in. What did you think, Ambassador?

ZALMAY KHALILZAD, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: I think, as Jamie said, it was a speech especially with regard to the Middle East that was focused on the coming election in the United States. And it was a missed opportunity in my judgment, although I was positive about the changes in the Arab world because of Arab Spring, there was no plan, no initiative put forward as to how to make these changes lead to a democratic consolidation in the Arab world.

There's great danger that these changes have taken place, that democracy is not really assured. There's a danger of extremists taking over some of these states, or chaos, of liberal democratic forces not getting organized in time for elections, the economy not performing.

So, I thought it was a little too positive and not enough attention to the risks associated with these changes and what the United States and the world ought to do.

And I also think it was a little too positive in another sense from a U.S. perspective, because over the past couple of years, our relations and our standing in the region has declined. We have worse relations now than we did before with all the major players in the region. Our relation with Israel is much weaker than it was. The president can be in part blamed for some of his tactics. Our relations with Egypt is much weaker than it was two years ago and the same applies to Saudi Arabia.

So, I think this was a focused on the domestic audience here in the United States and to give a positive spin to a situation that is rather difficult, including the problem we're confronting, either allowing the resolution to go forward, which would be bad for strategic interests with Israel, or veto, which will be bad on the streets of the Arab world.

BLITZER: And David, quickly, did you see this primarily as a political speech by the president or a substantive global address?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It definitely had strong political overtones for a domestic audience. But what I thought, we're seeing a very different president from what we have often seen in his Middle East speeches. You know, Cairo, for example, he had a sweeping process about how we're going to transform relations with the Arab world and the U.S.

In other speeches, he's made promises -- we're going to have a deal between the Palestinians and the Israelis. They have been the bold aspirational speeches in which he's made a lot of promises. This time, he pulled back from all of that.

This time -- there were no promises. There were no plans. There were no hard actions the United States was going to take. There was no leaning on any of the parties.

There was nothing very specific. It was almost as if he was sort of above, sort of lofty, almost in a passive way about what's going on in the Middle East. Some would say he's being realistic. It's clear he's extremely frustrated.

And I think the theme of the speech, the headline of the speech is: peace is hard. Peace is hard. He kept saying that.

BLITZER: He said at one point, he said, "I know that many people are frustrated by the lack of progress in the Middle East." He says, "I assure you, so am I."


BLITZER: You make a good point.

All right. I want to thank everyone for watching. We're going to continue to cover all of this throughout the day. I'll be back at 5:00 p.m. Eastern in "THE SITUATION ROOM." I'll be reporting from the United Nations.

We'll take a quick break. Stay with CNN. Our coverage continues with Suzanne Malveaux in THE NEWSROOM, right after this.