Obama Says Peace Between Israel, Palestinians Faces 'Difficult Path'

In an interview with London-based Asharq al-Awsat newspaper, U.S. president also seeks to calm regional worries over Iran nuclear deal as he prepares to host a summit with Gulf leaders.

Haaretz
Reuters
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US President Barack Obama addresses the Catholic-Evangelical Leadership Summit on Overcoming Poverty at Georgetown University in Washington, DC, on May 12, 2015.
US President Barack Obama addresses the Catholic-Evangelical Leadership Summit on Overcoming Poverty at Georgetown University in Washington, DC, on May 12, 2015. Credit: AFP
Haaretz
Reuters

U.S. President Barack Obama said on Tuesday that the U.S. will "never give up on the hope for peace between Israelis and Palestinians" even as he admitted that tensions in the region raise "serious questions about overall commitment to a two-state outcome."

In an interview with London-based Asharq al-Awsat newspaper, Obama said the U.S. expects Israel and the Palestinians "to demonstrate - through policies and actions - a genuine commitment to a two-state solution."

Obama's interview comes as he prepares to host a summit with Gulf Arab leaders. On Wednesday, he will meet Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the Oval Office, and later hold a dinner with the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). On Thursday, the summit will continue at Camp David in Maryland.

The Palestinians, the president said in the interview, "deserve an end to the occupation and the daily indignities that come with it; they deserve to live in an independent, sovereign state, where they can give their children a life of dignity and opportunity." At the same time, he added, peace "is also in the national security interest of the United States. That’s why we’ve worked so hard over the years for a two-state solution and to develop innovative ways to address Israel’s security and Palestinian sovereignty needs."

"With the breakdown of talks, simmering tension in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, last summer’s conflict in Gaza, and serious questions about overall commitment to a two-state outcome," he said, "it’s no secret that we now have a very difficult path forward. As a result, the United States is taking a hard look at our approach to the conflict."

Iran nuclear deal 'necessary'

Asked about concerns over the nuclear deal being negotiated between Iran and the six world powers – not least among the Gulf nations whose leaders are gathering in Washington – Obama stressed that "there should be no doubt about the commitment of the United States to the security of the region and to our GCC partners."

The Islamic Republic, added the president, engages in "dangerous and destabilizing behavior" across the region and that was why it was important to reach an agreement to curb Tehran's nuclear ambitions.

He advocated engagement as a way to integrate Iran into the global community and strengthen its more moderate leaders.

"But even if the political dynamics in Iran do not change, a nuclear deal becomes even more necessary because it prevents a regime that is hostile to us from obtaining a nuclear weapon," he told the newspaper.

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