Obama denies any Israel, US rift
Breitbart: US President Barack Obama said he hoped for direct Middle East peace talks to start before the end of September, as he and visiting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denied reports of a rift.
The leaders sat close together in the Oval Office Tuesday and staged a prolonged handshake for the cameras, seeking to put to rest a tense, closed-door encounter at the White House in March.
“I believe that Prime Minister Netanyahu wants peace. I think he’s willing to take risks for peace,” Obama said, and strongly disputed a question which suggested he had distanced the United States from Israel.
“The fact of the matter is, is that I’ve trusted Prime Minister Netanyahu since I met him before I was elected president and have said so both publicly and privately.”
The talks went ahead amid intense interest on a partial Israeli freeze on settlement building which is due to expire at the end of September.
Obama finessed the issue by saying he hoped progress towards direct negotiations from indirect US-brokered proximity talks between Israelis and Palestinians would render that deadline irrelevant.
“My hope is that once direct talks have begun, well before the moratorium has expired, that that will create a climate in which everybody feels a greater investment in success,” he said.
Netanyahu says he is ready to meet Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas at any time, but the Palestinians have yet to commit to direct talks, accusing Israel of undermining the atmosphere with continuing settlement activity.
He said he and Obama had discussed “concrete” steps that could be taken now.
“When I say ‘the next few weeks,’ that’s what I mean. The president means that too.”
The challenge now will be to get the Palestinians to accept the time frame that Obama has in mind.