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Time is right for renewed Israeli-Palestinian peace effort, Obama says

May 17, 2011|By Michael Muskal | Los Angeles Times

President Obama on Tuesday called for progress in solving the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians as part of the wave of change sweeping through the Mideast.

Speaking after a White House meeting with Jordan’s King Abdullah II, Obama said resolving the Israel-Palestinian conflict was vital. Obama is scheduled to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday, a day after he addresses the nation on Middle East policy, including the pro-democracy uprisings and related issues.

“We also discussed the situation with respect to the Israel and the Palestinian conflict, and we both share the view that despite the many changes or perhaps because of the many changes that are taking place in the region, it is more vital than ever that both Israelis and Palestinians find a way to get back to the table and begin negotiating a process whereby they can create two states that are living side by side in peace and security,” Obama said.

”We will continue to ... encourage an equitable and just solution for a problem that has been nagging the region for many, many years,” the president added.

Peace efforts have been stalemated for months on questions including the construction of Israeli settlements, prompting the Palestinians to consider going to the United Nations in the fall to seek official recognition for a unilateral declaration of statehood. Complicating the situation is a recent agreement designed to heal the breach between the Palestinian groups running the West Bank and Gaza. The United States, Israel and the West consider Hamas, which runs Gaza, to be a terrorist group.

Last week, former Sen. George Mitchell, the president’s special envoy to the Mideast, abruptly resigned. Violence, a constant threat in the region, picked up over the weekend.

In his speech Thursday, Obama is expected to discuss the issues that have marked the recent turmoil in the region where pro-democracy groups have toppled governments in Tunisia and Egypt, shaken rulers in Syria, Bahrain and Yemen and have led to civil war-like conditions in Libya.

Led by the United States and Europe, the United Nations authorized a "no-fly" zone in Libya to protect civilians. That zone is being enforced by NATO.

Obama is also likely to touch on Iran’s ongoing nuclear ambitions and the recent raid in Pakistan in which terrorist leader Osama bin Laden was killed earlier this month.

The president told reporters that Tuesday’s meeting with King Abdullah was “an opportunity for us to share our views on the extraordinary changes taking place throughout the region.”

Noting that King Abdullah has pushed for reforms in his country, Obama praised the effort, adding that economic improvement was needed as well as political change. Obama announced a plan to use Overseas Private Investment Corporation money to leverage $1 billion of development in Jordan. He also announced a plan to send 50,000 metric tons of wheat to Jordan to help stabilize the daily cost of living.

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