Obama Tells Abbas 'Risks for Peace' are Needed
US President Barack Obama on Monday told Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas that both he and Israeli leaders must make tough political decisions and take "risks" for peace.
Meeting Obama at the White House, Abbas said that Israel's release of the fourth batch of terrorists by March 29 would show how serious Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was about extending peace talks.
"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 as he met Abbas in the Oval Office.
"It is very hard, very challenging. We are going to have to take some tough political decisions and risks if we able to move forward," Obama said.
He said that everyone already understood the shape of an "elusive" peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, saying it would be based on 1949 Armistice lines.
Abbas did not directly address the Israeli government's demand for the Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.
He did claim, however, through a translator, that the Palestinian Authority had recognized Israel's legitimacy in 1988 and in "1993 we recognized the state of Israel" - though not specifically as a Jewish homeland.
Abbas also noted the agreement that the PA has with Israel on the release of a fourth batch of terrorists by March 29. "This will give a very solid impression about the seriousness of the Israelis on the peace process," Abbas claimed.
Abbas has consistently said that unless all his preconditions are met, there will be no peace with Israel.
Israel has not yet released an official response to Abbas's statements. However, Israeli President Shimon Peres did release a statement of support ahead of the meeting.
"President Abbas is a man of principle; he is against terror, against violence. He is a good partner and I'm glad that our government is negotiating with him," Peres's office quoted him as saying in a statement.
"We are all waiting for peace; it is the wish of the Israeli and Palestinian people," he claimed.