Monday, May 18, 2009

Obama, Netanyahu Agree on Peace, Differ on Priorities

From, Monday, May 18, 2009:

President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agree peace needs to come to the Middle East but their visions may differ, as the U.S. leader called Monday for a two-state solution between Israelis and Palestinians and Netanyahu made no mention of a nation for the Arab people.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday he is ready to restart Mideast peace talks right away as long as Palestinians immediately recognize the Jewish state.

Meeting with President Obama at the Oval Office, the new prime minister -- on his second tour as head of the Israeli government -- said he wants the Palestinians to have the powers to govern themselves, save for a few security measures that threaten Israel.

Netanyahu also appeared to differ from Obama, who on Monday called for a two-state solution between Israelis and Palestinians. Netanyahu made no specific mention of a separate nation for the Arab people.

"We don't want to govern the Palestinians, we want to live peacefully, we want them to govern themselves absent a handful of powers that could endanger the state of Israel. And to this end there is a clear goal, the goal has to be an end to conflict," Netanyahu said while taking questions from reporters in the Oval Office.

"We're ready to do our share. We hope the Palestinians will do their share as well. If we resume negotiations, as we plan to do, then I think that the Palestinians will have to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, will have to also enable Israel to have the means to defend itself. If those conditions are met -- Israel's security conditions are met, and there's recognition of Israel's legitimacy -- its permanent legitimacy, then I think we can envision an arrangement where Palestinians and Israelis live side by side in dignity, security and in peace," he said.

Obama said the Israelis must stop building settlements in the West Bank and should follow the outline from the Annapolis Conference convened during the Bush administration that laid out a "roadmap" to peace.

"I have said before and I will repeat again that it is, I believe, in the interests not only of the Palestinians but also the Israelis and the United States and the international community to achieve a two-state solution," Obama said.

"There is no reason why we should not seize this opportunity and this moment for all parties concerned to take seriously those obligations and to move forward in a way that assures Israel's security and stops the terrorist attacks that have been such a source of pain and hardship," he continued.

Before his Feb. 10 election, Netanyahu derided the latest round of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, which stalled late last year, as a waste of time. Also raising hackles among Palestinians and the U.S. has been increased settlement activity, with settlers announcing Sunday that government officials have begun taking bids to build infrastructure for a fledgling Jewish community deep in the West Bank.

On the other hand, Israel's president, Shimon Peres, said Sunday in Jordan that Netanyahu would abide by agreements signed by his predecessors, including the U.S.-backed Mideast peace plan calling for a two-state solution to the conflict with Palestinians.

Peres said progress depended on an end to attacks by Hamas militants and greater Palestinian efforts to ensure Israel's security. Netanyahu said he does not want another Gaza on Israel's border, where rockets frequently rain down on Israeli towns.

Meanwhile, sources close to the Israeli government recently told FOX News that Netanyahu was to seek assurances from Obama that neighboring Arab nations will back the weak Palestinian government of Mahmoud Abbas in concessions for peace.

Netanyahu said realities on the ground are changing.

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