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Entries in two-state solution (3)


Video and Full Transcript of Obama-Abbas Meeting (28 May)

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After The Obama-Abbas Meeting: A Palestinian Stuck between Washington and Tel Aviv

Thursday's meeting between Palestinian Authority leader, Mahmoud Abbas, and President Obama focused on the conditions for a peace process with the goal of a two-state solution. Abbas restated his dedication to the obligations deriving from the principles of the US-UK-EU-Russia Quartet, along with his willingness to negotiate the permanent status issues of Jerusalem, refugees, borders, water, security and the release of all Palestinian prisoners, while President Obama underlined the significance of a freeze on Israeli settlements by warning Tel Aviv:
I have not put forward a specific timetable. But let me just point out, when I was campaigning for this office I said that one of the mistakes I would not make is to wait until the end of my first term, or the end of my second term, before we moved on this issue aggressively. And we’ve been true to that commitment.

The full transcript of the Abbas-Obama press conference follows the video:


OBAMA: Hello, everybody. Well, it is a great pleasure to welcome President Abbas to the Oval Office. We had -- we just completed an extensive conversation, both privately as well as with our delegations, about how we can advance peace in the Middle East and how we can reaffirm some core principles that I think can result in Palestinians and Israelis living side by side in peace and security.

As I’ve said before, I’ve been a strong believer in a two-state solution that would provide the Israelis and Palestinians the peace and security that they need. I am very appreciative that President Abbas shares that view. And when Prime Minister Netanyahu was here last week I reiterated to him that the framework that’s been provided by the road map is one that can advance the interests of Israel, can advance the interests of the Palestinian people, and can also advance the interests of the United States.

We are a stalwart ally of Israel and it is in our interests to assure that Israel is safe and secure. It is our belief that the best way to achieve that is to create the conditions on the ground and set the stage for a Palestinian state as well. And so what I told Prime Minister Netanyahu was is that each party has obligations under the road map. On the Israeli side those obligations include stopping settlements. They include making sure that there is a viable potential Palestinian state.

On the Palestinian side it’s going to be important and necessary to continue to take the security steps on the West Bank that President Abbas has already begun to take, working with General Dayton. We’ve seen great progress in terms of security in the West Bank. Those security steps need to continue because Israel has to have some confidence that security in the West Bank is in place in order for us to advance this process.

And I also mentioned to President Abbas in a frank exchange that it was very important to continue to make progress in reducing the incitement and anti-Israel sentiments that are sometimes expressed in schools and mosques and in the public square, because all those things are impediments to peace.

The final point that I made was the importance of all countries internationally, but particularly the Arab states, to be supportive of a two-state solution.

And we discussed how important it is that the Arab states, building off of some of the recognition of the possibilities of the two-state solution that are contained in the Arab Peace Initiative continue to provide economic support, as well as political support, to President Abbas’s efforts as he moves the Palestinian Authority forward, as he continues to initiate the reforms that have taken place, and as he hopefully is going to be able to enter into constructive talks with the Israelis.

So, again, I want to thank President Abbas for his visit and a very constructive conversation. 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, and if they keep in mind not just the short-term tactical issues that are involved, but the long-term strategic interests of both the Israelis and the Palestinians to live side by side in peace and security.

So, thank you again, Mr. President.

ABBAS (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Thank you very much, Mr. President, for receiving us here at the White House. We came here to tell you first of all that we congratulate you for the confidence that was expressed by the American people in electing you President of the United States. And we wish you all success in your mission.

Mr. President, you referred to the international commitment as we stipulated in the road map. I would like to take this opportunity to reaffirm to you that we are fully committed to all of our obligations under the road map, from A to Z.

And we believe, like you, Mr. President, that carrying out the obligations of all parties under the road map will be the only way to achieve the durable, comprehensive, and just peace that we need and desire in the Middle East.

Mr. President, I believe that the entire Arab world and the Islamic world, they are all committed to peace. We’ve seen that through the Arab League Peace Initiative that simply talks about land for peace as a principle. I believe that if the Israelis would withdraw from all occupied Palestinian, Syrian, and Lebanese land, the Arab world will be ready to have normal relationships with the state of Israel.

On our part, we are carrying our security and responsibility in the West Bank, and have law and order in that areas under our control because we believe that it is in our interest to have security. It’s in the interest of stability in the region. And here I would like to pay tribute and thank you to General Dayton and all those who work with him in helping and supporting and training our security organizations to carry out their duties and responsibilities.

Mr. President, I believe that time is of the essence. We should capitalize on every minute and every hour in order to move the peace process forward, in order to cement this process, in order to achieve the agreement that would lead to peace.

Thank you very much.

OBAMA: Thank you. We got time for a couple of questions.

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President. I’m going to ask you a question about your trip next week to Riyadh. Reducing U.S. dependence on foreign oil is a cornerstone of your energy policy. And when you meet with Riyadh’s King Abdullah next week, what message will you take to him about U.S. energy policy, oil prices, output quotes, and the like?

OBAMA: Well, you know, Saudi Arabia has been an important strategic partner in providing us with our critical energy needs. We appreciate that. It’s a commercial relationship as well as a strategic relationship.

And I don’t think that it’s in Saudi Arabia’s interests or our interests to have a situation in which our economy is dependent, or better yet, is disrupted constantly by huge spikes in energy prices. And it’s in nobody’s interest, internationally, for us to continue to be so heavily dependent on fossil fuels that we continue to create the greenhouse gases that threaten the planet.

So in those discussions I’ll be very honest with King Abdullah, with whom I’ve developed a good relationship, indicating to him that we’re not going to be eliminating our need for oil imports in the immediate future; that’s not our goal. What our goal has to be is to advance the clean energy solutions in this country that can strengthen our economy, put people back to work, diversify our energy sources.

And, you know, interestingly enough, you’re seeing the Saudis make significant investments both in their own country and outside of their country in clean energy, as well, because I think they recognize that we’ve got finite -- we have a finite supply of oil. There are going to be a whole host of countries like China and India that have huge populations, need to develop rapidly.

If everybody is dependent solely on oil as opposed to energy sources like wind and solar, if we are not able to figure out ways to sequester carbon and that would allow us to use coal in a non- polluting way, if we don’t diversify our energy sources, then all of us are going to be in trouble. And so I don’t think that will be a difficult conversation to have.

QUESTION (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Mr. President, if Israel keeps declining to accept the two-state solution and to freeze the settlement activities, how the U.S. would intervene in the peace process?

OBAMA: We’ll, I think it’s important not to assume the worst, but to assume the best. And in my conversations with Prime Minister Netanyahu I was very clear about the need to stop the settlements; to make sure that we are stopping the building of outposts; to work with the Palestinian Authority in order to alleviate some of the pressures that the Palestinian people are under in terms of travel and commerce, so that we can initiate some of the economic development plans that Prime Minister Netanyahu himself has said are so important on the ground.

And that conversation only took place last week. I think that we don’t have a moment to lose, but I also don’t make decisions based on just the conversation that we had last week because obviously Prime Minister Netanyahu has to work through these issues in his own government, in his own coalition, just as President Abbas has a whole host of issues that he has to deal with.

But I’m confident that if Israel looks long term -- looks at its long-term strategic interests, that it will recognize that a two-state solution is in the interests of the Israeli people as well as the Palestinians. And certainly, that’s how the United States views our long-term strategic interests -- a situation in which the Palestinians can prosper, they can start businesses, they can educate their children, they can send them to college, they can prosper economically. That kind of situation is good for Israel’s security. And I am confident that the majority of the Israeli people would see that as well.

Now, obviously the Israelis have good reason to be concerned about security, and that’s why it’s important that we continue to make progress on the security issues that so often end up disrupting peace talks between the two parties.

QUESTION (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): President Abbas, you’ve met with President Obama, and perhaps you shared some of your ideas about permanent status resolution. What was in these ideas, and what kind of appropriate mechanism that you have discussed to realize them and carry them out?

ABBAS: We have shared some ideas with the President, but all of them basically are embodied in the road map and the Arab League Initiative, without any change, without any modification.

Regarding the mechanism to carry it out, of course, there is a mechanism through the Quartet as well as the follow-up committee from the Arab nations. Such a proposal will need to be looked at, studied; then we’ll see where to go from here.

QUESTION: Mr. President, do you plan to unveil any part or all of your proposal for Mideast peace when you’re speaking in Cairo next week, or is it some other message you intend to deliver?

OBAMA: I want to use the occasion to deliver a broader message about how the United States can change for the better its relationship with the Muslim world. That will require, I think, a recognition on both the part of the United States as well as many majority Muslim countries about each other, a better sense of understanding, and I think possibilities to achieve common ground.

I want to emphasize the importance of Muslim Americans in the United States and the tremendous contributions they make, something that I think oftentimes is missed in some of these discussions. But certainly the issue of Middle East peace is something that is going to need to be addressed. It is a critical factor in the minds of many Arabs in countries throughout the region and beyond the region. And I think that it would be inappropriate for me not to discuss those.

I’m not going to give you a preview right now, but it’s something that we’ll certainly discuss.

One thing that I didn’t mention earlier that I want to say I very much appreciate is that President Abbas I think has been under enormous pressure to bring about some sort of unity government and to negotiate with Hamas. And I am very impressed and appreciative of President Abbas’s willingness to steadfastly insist that any unity government would have to recognize the principles that have been laid by the Quartet. In the absence of a recognition of Israel and a commitment to peace, and a commitment to previous agreements that have already been made, it would be very hard to see any possibility of peace over the long term. And so I want to publicly commend President Abbas for taking that position because I think it’s a position that’s in the interest of the Palestinian people, in the interests of peace in the region, and it’s something that the United States very much agrees with.

QUESTION (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Mr. President, if I may, President Bush hoped that you would have a Palestinian state by the time he leaves office. It didn’t happen. Do you have a time frame when this Palestinian state is going to happen?

Are you talking about a timetable for negotiation?

QUESTION (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): The first question to President Abbas: Mr. President, did you receive any kind of clear-cut commitments from President Obama, or any pledges that would help you to strengthen your hands when you are dealing with the Palestinian public and opposition among Palestinians that this peace process activities could be viable and could be actually productive?

And the second question was, did President Obama ask you to have a meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu?

ABBAS: President Obama basically talked and reaffirmed the international commitments that we all agreed to, and they are all embodied in the road map. He talked about the necessity to have two states, he talked about the importance of stopping settlement activities, and he also talked about the importance of achieving peace through negotiating all permanent status issues.

Obviously without discussing and negotiating permanent status issues there will be no progress. We know that all the six issues of permanent status were discussed with the previous Israeli Prime Minister, Mr. Olmert, and what is needed right now is to resume the discussions with the current Israeli government.

OBAMA: And in terms of a timetable, I have not put forward a specific timetable. But let me just point out, when I was campaigning for this office I said that one of the mistakes I would not make is to wait until the end of my first term, or the end of my second term, before we moved on this issue aggressively. And we’ve been true to that commitment.

From the first week that I arrived in this office, I insisted that this is a critical issue to deal with, in part because it is in the United States’ interest to achieve peace; that the absence of peace between Palestinians and Israelis is a impediment to a whole host of other areas of increased cooperation and more stable security for people in the region, as well as the United States. And so I want to see progress made, and we will work very aggressively to achieve that.

I don’t want to put an artificial timetable, but I do share President Abbas’s feelings and I believe that many Israelis share the same view that time is of the essence, that we can’t continue with a (inaudible) with the increased fear and resentments on both sides, the sense of hopelessness around the situation that we’ve seen for many years now -- we need to get this thing back on track. And I will do everything I can, and my administration will do everything I can -- my special envoy, George Mitchell, is working as diligently as he can, as is my entire national security team, to make sure that we jumpstart this process and get it moving again.

All right.


Video: Brzezinski --- "This is the Last Chance for Peace in the Middle East"

Speaking on MSNBC's Morning Joe this week, Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Carter's National Security Advisor, reviewed the Middle East peace process. He declared that President Obama found himself between two options/schools of thought: Israel’s official perspective of delaying the peace with Palestinians, by presenting the Iranian danger as the priority of “existential threat”, and the demand for a two-state solution.

For Brzezinski, the outcome of Obama’s speech in Cairo on July 4 will be the turning point in US policy. It will ether foster a solution or, in its failure, ensure the peace process will be stuck for a long time. Thus, the US must make it clear to Israelis and Palestinians that this is the last chance for peace in the region, particular as the tension with Iran is worsening.

Brzezinski believes Israel must withdraw from occupied Palestine and must be pushed to share Jerusalem and stop the expansion settlements. In return, Israel must be assured that it does not have to accept any Palestinian refugees via a "right to return". Otherwise, a polarization would continue, with Palestinians seeing no alternative outside Hamas.


Hillary Clinton on Al-Jazeera: "Stop the Settlement Construction."

On Friday, we noted the aftermath of the Obama-Netanyahu meeting in Washington, with an emerging Israeli attempt to undermine a "grand design" by the US for the Middle East. More specifically, the two countries are at odds over the expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

This is the interview that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave to Al-Jazaeera on Tuesday, where her assurance that Hamas remained on the outside of the process sat alongside her denunciation of the setttlements:.


QUESTION: Madame Secretary, thanks for your time, first of all, for talking to this program on Al-Jazeera.

The meeting yesterday between President Obama and the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, after the meeting, President Obama could not have made it any clearer that he wanted a two-state solution. On the other hand, Prime Minister Netanyahu sort of danced around the issue without using the terminology, which has raised concerns in the Arab world. How concerned are you about the fact that he didn’t actually mention once “two-state solution”?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, this is the beginning, and we see this as an intensive period of our outreach and of our frankly laying out what we want to see happen. You rightly point out that the President underscored our commitment to a two-state solution and also called for a stop to the settlements. We have made that very clear. I reinforced that last night at a dinner that I hosted for Prime Minister Netanyahu.

Now the hard work starts. But I think it is significant that the Obama Administration is not waiting. We are starting this intensive engagement right now, very early in our Administration. We have consulted broadly already. Both George Mitchell and I have spoken with many Arab leaders, as well, of course, with the Palestinians and the Israelis. And we are determined to forge ahead on what we believe is in the best interests of the Israelis, the Palestinians, the larger region, and the world, as well as what we think is right. And the President – our President has often said, “Judge us on our actions, not our words.” But his words were very strong, and now we intend to match those words with our actions.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, when President Obama yesterday talked about the issue of settlements and he said that he wanted the Israelis to freeze the building on the West Bank, does that mean that he wants the settlements, the existing settlements, to be rolled back to the 1967 border, specifically?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, there are two pieces to that question. First, we want to see a stop to settlement construction, additions, natural growth – any kind of settlement activity. That is what the President has called for. We also are going to be pushing for a two-state solution which, by its very name, implies borders that have to be agreed to. And we expect to see two states living side by side, a state for the Palestinians that will be sovereign and within which the Palestinians will have the authorities that come with being in charge of a state with respect to such activities as settlements. So it’s really a two-step effort here. We want to see a stop now, and then, as part of this intensive engagement that Senator Mitchell is leading for us, we want to move toward a two-state solution with borders for the Palestinians.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, on the issue of the division, the split within the Palestinian body, Fatah and Hamas, can you envisage a scenario where you would be able to achieve a two-state solution without talking in some way, in some form, to Hamas?

SECRETARY CLINTON: I believe that Hamas has to comply with not only the Quartet principles but the underlying principles of the Arab Peace Initiative. You cannot expect either Fatah or the Israelis or Arabs who wish to see this matter resolved, with a two-state solution, to work with a group that does not believe in the outcome of these efforts. And in any peace negotiation that I’m aware of anywhere in the world, groups that are resistance groups, insurgent groups, guerilla groups, when they come to the peace table have to commit to peace. And we would expect Hamas to recognize Israel’s right to exist, to renounce violence as the way to the achievement of a homeland for the Palestinian people, and to recognize the prior agreements that have been entered into by the Palestinians either through the PLO or the PA.

I think that’s an incredibly reasonable request. Now, it is truly up to Hamas. The unity efforts that Egypt has been leading have been difficult because, clearly, there are very strongly divergent opinions that are being expressed. My hope is that I will see, you will see Palestinian children in their own state having a chance to lead normal lives, being given the opportunity to fulfill their own God-given potential, to get an education, to get the healthcare they need, to have good jobs and pursue their dreams. I don’t want to see them consigned to years more of conflict that just destroys that future.
And I think we have an opportunity now. We have a President of the United States who has already reached out and said here is what I’m committed to doing. I am committed. We have a team in this Administration, and we are looking for partners. We think that the Palestinian Authority is ready to be a partner. We believe through our efforts we will get the Israelis to make the kind of commitment to a two-state solution that is absolutely necessary. We know that many leaders in the Arab world see this in a different way, as the Arab Peace Initiative suggests. So let’s try to bring people to that recognition, and that includes Hamas.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, thanks for the time, and I hope we can have you again on Al Jazeera.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much. Nice to talk to you.

QUESTION: Great to see you. Thank you very much.