U.S. President Barack Obama congratulated Israel Tuesday night on its 61st Independence Day and said he will work “to advance our common interests, including the realization of a comprehensive peace in the Middle East, ensuring Israel’s security.”
The one-paragraph statement came shortly after President Shimon Peres confirmed reports that he will meet President Obama on Monday during his visit to the United States for a speech at the annual meeting of the pro-Israel American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu turned down an invitation to address AIPAC due to his trying to formulate policies and organize his new administration. One report circulating in the media earlier this month was that President Obama turned down a request from the Prime Minister to meet him next week, preferring to wait until the scheduled official visit in mid-May.
President Obama’s wishes for a regional peace centers around the two-state solution that calls for a New Palestinian Authority state on the land of Judea, Gaza and Samaria. Prime Minister Netanyahu has so far refused to adopt the idea, emphasizing that the PA first must become economically and socially stable.
President Peres’s meeting with his American counterpart will come one week after Jordan’s King Abdullah became the first Middle East leader to meet the president. During his visit, he said on an American television news program that Israel faces war if it does not accept Arab peace plans.
One of the largest obstacles to the American policy for a PA state is the fracture between the rival Fatah and Hamas parties. The U.S. has invested millions of dollars to shore up the Fatah-led PA, headquartered in Ramallah.
Unity talks so far have failed and may reconvene in mid-May. If they succeed, the U.S. will have to decide whether it can fund the PA if it includes a Hamas partner that vows to destroy Israel.
PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has demanded that Israel accept a PA state that includes all of Judea, Gaza and Samaria as well as Jerusalem neighborhoods restored to Israel in the Six-Day War in 1967.
On Tuesday, as Israel was remembering the more than 22,000 soldiers who died defending the country, Abbas said he would not recognize Israel as a Jewish state.