Israel must halt their expansion into the West Bank and Palestinians must increase West Bank security to allow the Middle East peace process to advance, said President Obama after meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday.
Obama told reporters “I am confident that we can move this process forward if all the parties are willing to take on the responsibilities and meet the obligations that they’ve already committed to.” during a joint appearance with Abbas following the White House meeting.
Abbas said the Palestinian Authority was committed to fulfilling its obligations under the 2003 Middle East road map.
The two leaders called for immediate progress in the peace process in the hope of restarting peace talks directly between Palestinians and Israeli’s.
No formal Palestinian-Israeli negotiations have occurred since the latest Israeli elections brought Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to power.
“What is needed right now is to resume the discussions with the current Israeli government,” Abbas said.
Obama pushed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, last week, for a firm Israeli commitment to Palestinian statehood as part of the so-called two-state solution, a position strongly advocated on Thursday by Abbas.
Netanyahu has committed to removing illegal settlements but has also committed to continue expansion or “natural Growth” of existing settlements.
Netanyahu has also refrained from committing to a Palestinian state saying that Israel needed security and a clear Palestinian Leader to talk to.
Obama said “It is in our interest to ensure that Israel is safe and secure,” and for steps to be taken towards a Palestinian free state.
At the same time, Obama said he told President Abbas “in a frank exchange” that continuing anti-Israel sentiments and incitements were “impediments to peace.”
The Palestinian Authority headed by Abbas holds power on the West Bank, while the militant Palestinian Islamist group Hamas controls Gaza. Abbas is under pressure to negotiate with Hamas on creating a unified Palestinian leadership, Obama noted, and praised him for insisting that such a Palestinian leadership must agree to Israel’s right to exist and commit itself to peace.
Without both sides of this conflict doing their part and recognising each others right to security and a clearly defined boundary peace will be difficult to establish and maintain.
Clearly some large policy shifts will be required from both sides before a suitable peace can be found.