Obama Meets Abbas: Peace Won't be Easy
Hours after he called on Israel to “end the occupation of the West Bank”, U.S. President Barack Obama met Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday.
During the meeting, reported the Associated Press, Obama said that no one is under the illusion that peace between Israelis and Arabs will be easy, but claimed PA Arabs realize that negotiations are the best and only way to achieve a two-state solution.
Obama also praised Abbas for consistently rejecting violence and being open to negotiations, according to the report.
Abbas said he remained fully committed to the peace process and thanked the U.S. for supporting the process. He added that the goal is an independent Palestinian state.
The peace talks between Israel and the PA resumed this past summer following shuttle diplomacy by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.
Kerry asked both sides to keep the details of the negotiations secret in order to give the process a chance to work and, while Israeli officials have remain tight-lipped about the talks, PA officials have made several leaks to the press.
A recent leak involved a PA official saying that during the negotiations, Israel agreed to a wholesale deportation of thousands of Jews from Judea and Samaria and the transfer of their property to PA Arabs. However, the PA official who reported on that Israeli offer added that the PA side had rejected it as not going far enough.
In an earlier leak to the press, the PA's chief negotiator , Saeb Erekat, told an Arabic radio station that the US has guaranteed the PA all of its key preconditions in advance of negotiations.
Abbas, who has for years demanded a state based on the borders that existed before the 1967 Six Day War, recently stated that unless Israel meets all of his preconditions, there will be no peace.
In recent days there have been calls on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to stop the peace talks with the PA unless Abbas condemns the murder of two IDF soldiers in two separate incidents.
Dozens of Knesset members, including deputy government ministers, have signed a letter calling on Netanyahu to cancel all planned releases of terrorist prisoners as part of a series of "goodwill gestures" to the PA.
Abbas, who met representatives of the Jewish community in New York on Monday night, reportedly said that he condemned the killing and all other acts of violence, but also said that he expected Israel to condemn recent deaths of four Arab youths from Israeli gunfire.