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Netanyahu Promises New Peace Steps in Obama Meeting

July 7, 2010
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Based on Obama’s comments, it would appear that one such measure could be an expansion of Palestinian security control in the West Bank [Judea and Samaria]. The Palestinian security forces already have limited control in a number of West Bank cities and towns, and Israel may decide to expand their oversight or the number of towns the PA forces operate in. In his comments regarding the matter, Obama said, “Us being able to widen the scope of their responsibilities in the West Bank is something that I think would be very meaningful to the Palestinian people.”  

Netanyahu did not give any specifics in his comments about the confidence-building steps. “The President and I discussed concrete steps that could be done now, in the coming days and the coming weeks, to move the peace process further along in a very robust way,” said Netanyahu. “This is what we focused our conversation on. And when I say the next few weeks, that's what I mean.”  

The main concession expected to be addressed during Obama and Netanyahu’s talks was the settlement-building moratorium, which is set to end in September—around the same time that the trial period for the proximity talks with the Palestinians could expire. When asked directly about the construction freeze, Obama complimented Israel’s “restraint” over the last several months and chose not to issue an explicit directive over the matter, despite the previously-stated American opposition to settlement building.

“My hope is that once direct talks have begun, well before the moratorium has expired, that that will create a climate in which everybody feels a greater investment in success,” said Obama. “[So] not every action by one party or the other is taken as a reason for not engaging in talks. So there ends up being more room created by more trust. And so I want to just make sure that we sustain that over the next several weeks.”

However, the issue may have been addressed in private. Netanyahu avoided a direct response when asked if they would continue building after September when the freeze was originally set to expire. Obama praised Netanyahu and noted that he trusts the Israeli leader, saying he thought Netanyahu is “willing to take risks for peace.” He said Netanyahu reaffirmed his “willingness to engage in serious negotiations” for a two-state solution.  

Obama also commended Netanyahu for the easing of the Gaza blockade and saw that as a measure that helped to boost confidence. While Obama noted that “tensions and issues” still remain involving Israel and Gaza, he said the US and Israel are working together to deal with the issues.

Netanyahu for his part again called for direct peace talks with the Palestinians and reaffirmed the Israeli willingness to take steps for peace. However, he also emphasized the importance of preserving Israel’s security in a final peace deal.

“Israelis are prepared to do a lot to get that peace in place, but they want to make sure that after all the steps they take, that what we get is a secure peace,” said Netanyahu. “We don’t want a repeat of the situation where we vacate territories and those are overtaken by Iran’s proxies and used as a launching ground for terrorist attacks or rocket attacks.”

Posted on July 7, 2010

Source: (By Joshua Spurlock, BFP Israel Mosaic Radio, July 6, 2010)

Photo Credit: The Media Line

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