Published May 22, 2011
JERUSALEM – The speech that President Barack Obama delivered last week may have sparked a crisis with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the president's mention of Israel's pre-1967 lines as a starting point for new borders.
But the bereaved Israeli father Obama singled out took no offense.
Toward the end of his wide-ranging Mideast address Thursday, Obama spoke of the difficulties of making progress in peace talks and how suspicion and hostility have been passed on for generations.
"But I'm convinced that the majority of Israelis and Palestinians would rather look to the future than be trapped in the past," Obama said. "We see that spirit in the Israeli father whose son was killed by Hamas, who helped start an organization that brought together Israelis and Palestinians who had lost loved ones."
The father is Yitzhak Frankenthal, who founded The Parents Circle-Families Forum in 1994 after his son, Arik, was kidnapped and murdered. Today the organization has more than 500 members — half Israeli, half Palestinian and all of whom have lost immediate family members in violence.
"President Obama is not naive," Frankenthal told The Associated Press Sunday. "I believe that he understands that we cannot continue to say peace from one side, to continue the occupation from the other side, not to be ready to make compromises from the other side and to continue to build settlements ... it cannot go on, it cannot continue. And this man, I hope, will say enough is enough."
Arik Frankenthal was a 19-year-old soldier when he was killed, and his father said the tragedy made him realize that he lost his son because of the lack of peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
"As a father, I got a feeling that I failed. I brought a child to this world and instead of continuing to live and be with us, unfortunately he was murdered, and he was murdered because there is no peace," he said. "It's not a question of being naive of not naive. Neither President Obama nor I. We are not naive at all — there is no other way."