- The Washington Times - Friday, March 22, 2013

As President Obama wrapped up his three-day visit to Israel Friday, he spent some solemn moments at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, relighting the eternal flame there, laying a wreath and vowing to fight anti-Semitism and racism of all kinds.

Visibly moved, Mr. Obama spoke of a collective obligation “not just to bear witness but to act,” especially against attacks on the Jewish people.

“We have the choice to ignore what happens to others or to act on behalf of others,” he said after a tour of the museum and a memorial service.


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“Our sons and daughters are not born to hate, they are taught to hate,” he said. “The state of Israel does not exist because of the Holocaust but in the survival of a strong Jewish state of Israel, the Holocaust will never happen again.”

The remarks were the only public comments Mr. Obama was scheduled to deliver on his final day of his historic visit to Israel. He began his morning by laying stones on the grave of Theodor Herzl, the found of modern Zionism, and Yitzhak Rabin, the Israeli prime minister assassinated in 1995 while on the verge of a peace agreement with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

Mr. Obama spent Friday afternoon visiting the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, the biblical birthplace of Jesus, with Palestinian President Abbas. He plans to depart for Jordan later Friday.

The Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III greeted Mr. Obama in the center of the darkened, gilded sanctuary under dozens of hanging gold lamps, welcoming him to the “place where heaven and earth met.”

“We welcome you as a messenger of peace and reconciliation,” he said.

Quoting the Beatitudes in part, he added, “Blessed are the peacemakers.”

In a courtyard, about 20 children in white shirts and dark pants waved U.S. and Palestinian flags as Mr. Obama emerged.

After delivering an impassioned call for compromise, encouraging Israel’s younger generation to change their thinking towards their Palestinian neighbors and press their leaders to get back to the negotiating table, Israeli newspapers applauded the message and the president’s visit so far.

It remains to be seen if Prime Minister Netanyahu shares those views. Many analysts viewed Mr. Obama’s speech, which called for Israel to stop settlements in disputed border areas, as critical of Mr. Netanyahu’s leadership. Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Obama have repeatedly clashed during the U.S. president’s time in office, but there were no public signs of uneasiness or tension between the two leaders this week.

The pair will have lunch Friday to again discuss the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. They met Tuesday and emerged saying they agreed on U.S. efforts to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.

Three newspapers ran Mr. Obama’s declaration in Hebrew — “You are not alone” — as banner headlines and the popular left-leaning Haaretz spoke fondly of Mr. Obama’s “promise of love.”

“The most powerful man in the world arrived in the most threatened state in the world to promise love,” columnist Ari Shavit wrote. “He gave us love every single second in every speech and in every gesture.”

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