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Obama tells Abbas risks for peace are needed
Published Monday 17/03/2014 (updated) 20/03/2014 10:16
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US President Barack Obama and Palestinian leader Mahmoud
Abbas hold meetings in the Oval Office of the White House in
Washington, DC, on March 17, 2014 (AFP Saul Loeb)
WASHINGTON (AFP) -- US President Barack Obama told President Mahmoud Abbas that he and Israel's politicians must be prepared to make tough decisions and take "risks" for peace.

Abbas arrived at the White House two weeks after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, warning that time was running short for a final deal and saying Israel could show it was serious by honoring a scheduled release of Palestinian prisoners this month.

Obama, personally supporting Secretary of State John Kerry's exhaustive Middle East peace drive at a critical moment, is pressing both sides to accept a framework to carry negotiations past an end-of-April deadline.

"As I said to Prime Minister Netanyahu when he was here just a few weeks ago, I believe that now is the time ... to embrace this opportunity," Obama said.

"It is very hard, very challenging. We are going to have to take some tough political decisions and risks if we're able to move it forward."

Obama said that everyone understood the shape of an "elusive" peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, saying it would be based on 1967 lines with mutual land swaps.

Abbas sat beside Obama in the same Oval Office chair recently used by Netanyahu, when the Israeli leader complained Israel had done its part over decades of peace talks and the Palestinians hadn't done theirs.

The Palestinian leader told Obama: "We don't have any time to waste.

"Time is not on our side, especially given the very difficult situation that the Middle East is experiencing and the entire region is facing."

Abbas did not use a photo opportunity before the talks to directly address the Israeli government's demand for the Palestinians to recognize Israel as a "Jewish" state in public.

But he did say through a translator that the Palestinians had recognized Israel's legitimacy in 1988 and in "1993 we recognized the state of Israel."

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat told AFP that "Abbas confirmed his position to President Obama refusing to recognize Israel as a Jewish State."

Abbas noted in the photo-op the agreement that the Palestinians have with Israel on the release of a fourth batch of prisoners by March 29.

"This will give a very solid impression about the seriousness of these efforts to achieve peace," Abbas said.

'No formal proposals'

Israeli ministers said last week that they would have difficulty approving the prisoner release if agreement was not reached to extend the peace talks.

Israel committed to the release of 104 Palestinian prisoners in four tranches when talks were launched in July. It has so far released 78 of those in three batches.

Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina told AFP that Obama had not yet presented Abbas with a framework agreement.

But the US president did offer ideas to the Palestinian side, adding that discussions would continue in the coming weeks.

Ahead of the White House talks, thousands of Palestinians rallied in West Bank cities to show support for Abbas.

"We're here today to stand up to pressures upon us and make sure president Abbas adheres to his convictions," said Nasser Eddin al-Shaer, a former Palestinian education minister and member of Fatah's Islamist rival Hamas, at a 5,000-strong rally in the northern West Bank city of Nablus.

Despite multiple trips to the region by Kerry, the two sides appear to have made little progress since the talks resumed in July after a three-year freeze.

Kerry and Abbas also met Monday.

"There were no formal proposals or positions on the table, but Secretary Kerry and his negotiating team will continue this process with both parties in the days ahead," a senior State Department official said.

The most nettlesome issues in the peace process include the contours of a future Palestinian state, the fate of Jerusalem and Palestinian refugees, Israeli settlements, security and mutual recognition.

The Palestinians want borders based on the lines that preceded the Six-Day War in 1967, when Israel captured the West Bank, including now-annexed east Jerusalem.

They have also insisted there should be no Israeli troops in their future state.

But Israel wants to retain existing settlements it has built inside occupied Palestinian territory over the past decades. It also wants to maintain a military presence in the Jordan Valley, where the West Bank borders Jordan.

Analysts critique US role

Current and former Palestinian officials reacted to the meeting with pessimism, saying America's long-standing support for Israel made a peace deal unlikely.

"As long as the US is incapable of exercising pressure on Israel there will be no peace in the Middle East. A framework agreement or proposal cannot be a substitute for real solutions to the Palestinian-Israeli issue," Mustafa Barghouti, a Palestinian lawmaker, said in a statement.

"The way to a solution is simple. End Israel's nearly 47-year-old military occupation and settlement enterprise and allow Palestinians to be free. That is impossible as long as Israel is allowed to remain above international law and act with impunity."

Diana Buttu, a former PLO negotiator, agreed. She said Obama had ignored Israeli actions on the ground meant to undermine the peace process.

"Since the start of these talks in July 2013, Israel has killed more than 40 Palestinians, announced the construction of nearly 12,000 illegal settlement units on occupied Palestinian land, and destroyed hundreds of Palestinian homes," Buttu said.

"Rather than condemning these actions, President Obama has remained silent, sending the message that Palestinian life is cheap and that Israeli violations of international law and American policy will never be challenged."

She added: "Instead of encouraging the sides to prolong these pointless negotiations, Obama should be cutting off assistance to Israel until it begins to act in accordance with US policy, and lifting the complete immunity with which it has shielded Israel from international sanctions."

Ma'an staff contributed to this report.
1 ) Both / Neither
17/03/2014 20:05
Both Abbas and Israeli leaders may take "risks for peace", But
Neither will consider sufficient compromises enough for peace !!

2 ) jesse / usa
17/03/2014 20:50
I love how the Palestinians can " demand " prisoners e released but Israel cant demand anything

3 ) Maureen / Australia
17/03/2014 21:46
Peace, Obama? Obama, the Zionist puppet, is a self confessed drone killer! How does that give him authority to speak 'down' to Mr Abbas?

4 ) Johnny benson / USA
17/03/2014 23:23
I must be really stupid...it seems to me that Abbas is crazy not to take any deal offered.by Obama that Israel would buy into....he gets a country...gets into the un...and they can ignore the rules they don't like..as Hamas and Hezbollah do every day...unless he fears for his life

5 ) myra / canada
17/03/2014 23:29
Peace talks should not be taking place.to be having peace talks while under occupation.even worse is having peace talks with your occupier.Under international law what Israel government is doing is illegal. FREE PALESTINE

6 ) Brian Cohen / Israel
17/03/2014 23:44
Dianna Buttu, the Canadian, is a known liar and propagandist who is a highly paid media-whore. Buttu is the one who said on live tv news that kassam rockets "have no warheads". So, she's either a liar or she's telling the truth. I challenge her to meet me in Sderot where I will give her a kassam rocket top to hold. I will light the fuse for her. Either the fuse will go out, or Dianna Buttu will be scraped up and her epitaph will say "Here lies Dianna Buttu. Yea, I lied."

18/03/2014 00:51
RUSSIA LAUGHS AT OBAMA 'SANCTIONS'; CALLS HIM 'PRANKSTER' http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2014/03/russian-deputy-pm-laughs-at-obamas-sanctions

8 ) Two Things / Reality
18/03/2014 01:43
Obama should realize Two Things: -1- Abbas wants only statehood, and only on the 1967 lines, that Jordan (not "Palestine") lost, and as part of that statehood, he further plans the destruction of Israel, instead of Peace with it, and -2- Israeli leaders understand these Fatah and Hamas intentions to destroy the state of Israel, so Israeli leaders will never consider returning the 1949 Armistice Lines, which today Arabs like to call "1967 borders".

9 ) Tobias / USA
18/03/2014 03:23
1- Palestine says that "Israel Must Choose Settlements or Peace", and 2- Israel's silence says that "Palestine Must Choose Compromise or continued Stateless-Occupation", since 3- Israel will prosper while "choosing settlements over peace", but Palestine will stagnate and fail choosing statelessness over compromise !!!

10 ) Maureen / Australia
18/03/2014 06:14
#7 The problem for USrael is the fact, Russia has an intelligent President. Fortunately for Russia, Bolshevik remnants (revisionist Zionists) immigrated to the USA years ago.

11 ) The Four NOs / Truth
18/03/2014 20:01
- No Risks will Be Taken by Abbas, so
- No Peace will be Made with Israel, and thus
- No Palestinian state will be created ever, and
- No Responsibility for this failure will be Israel's !!

12 ) Arnold / Canada
18/03/2014 20:11
Maureen / Australia. I have no love for Putin or Obama. But I have more faith in Putin to do right by Israel. Obama blew it for me vis a vis Israel.

13 ) Mel / USA
19/03/2014 01:12
p.s. and what 'risks" is our so-called DEMOCRATIC POTUS going to take by continuing to SUPPORT,unconditionally,Israel's Zionist ethnocracy/Judocracy? How much RISK is he willing to apply to US national security,and integrity,for SUCH ludicrous hypocrisy which,after 1/2 a century of lies,bias,& exceptionalism,is growing SO OLD & lame it's embarrassing to everything American is SUPPOSED to be. The state we are supposed to be SANCTIONING for war crimes,is REWARDED more! Total lunacy!

14 ) @ Arnold-12 / USA
19/03/2014 20:43
Putin said he is just "righting a historic wrong",
with the annexation of the Ukraine's Crimea, so:
why not right some other historic wrongs too, like:
- "Russian" (WW2) islands should be returned to Japan,
- the "UK's" Northern Ireland should be returned to the Eire, and
- "Palestine's Judea-Samaria (W. Bank) should be returned to Israel !!!

15 ) ian / australia
22/03/2014 01:05
#4 "I must be really stupid..." Don't beat yourself up, Johnny, but Abbas would be crazy to ACCEPT what Israel is offering. It would be suicidal. It would mean West Bank Palestinians and the returning refugees attempting to create a state in three disconnected, blockaded enclaves: Gaza and the WB cut in two by an enlarged Ma'ale Adumim. And soldiers along the Jordan. It would be a state born of abject defeat, demoralised from the start, born to fail, in a fraction of the ancient home and

16 ) ian / australia
22/03/2014 01:06
(contd.) with a heartbreaking view from the capital in Abu Dis of the Golden Dome and the grey dome of al-Aqsa mosque a mile away, IN Israel. THAT'S the offer on the table which the Palestinians could accept anytime but it falls so far short of what they're ENTITLED to in terms of their RIGHTS and international law, they'd be INSANE to take it. How don't see that, Johnny?
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