Peres: Israel Supports Two State Solution,

One official said the White House believes a two-state solution can minimize the influence of Hamas and Hezbollah in Gaza and Lebanon, in turn depriving Iran of influence in and around Israel.

Israel is on board with key elements of President Obama’s agenda in the Middle East, Israeli President Shimon Peres told reporters Tuesday after meeting with Obama at the White House.

He said that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would support a two-state solution to achieve peace between the Israelis and Palestinians and that if Obama wants to engage Iran, the Israelis are willing to back him.

“Mr. Netanyahu said he will cooperate (with) the commitments of the previous (Israeli) government. The previous government accepted the roadmap (to Middle East peace). In the roadmap, you’ll find the attitude to the two-state solution,” Peres said.

He said Netanyahu is ready to “start to negotiate right away” and does not want to “govern the Palestinian people.”

The Tuesday sit-down was meant to lay the groundwork for a meeting later this month with Netanyahu which the U.S. president hopes will lead to a resumption of the Middle East peace process.

The White House released a statement Tuesday noting that Peres and Obama discussed issues “including the pursuit of a comprehensive peace in the Middle East and Iran’s nuclear program” and saying Obama looks forward to the meeting with Netanyahu.

Peres, more moderate than Netanyahu, had been downplaying the new Israeli leader’s previous refusal to endorse the “two-state solution” that has been the foundation of U.S. policy since early in the Bush administration.

The push for a two-state solution was also at the heart of a political flap Tuesday over the tone the administration was taking with its top ally in the Middle East.

Sources say the White House is considering offering Israel greater assistance in deterring Iran’s nuclear ambitions in exchange for movement toward a Palestinian state. Israeli media reported that White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel even privately told members of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee that the Iran issue hinged on peace talks with Palestinians.

But officials later said Emanuel’s comments were not meant to pressure the Israelis. Sources said he told AIPAC members that America’s Arab allies, in particular Jordan, would find it easier to support tougher sanctions on Iran if there were progress toward an Israeli-Palestinian peace.

Jordan’s population contains more Palestinian refugees than native Jordanians.

“This administration does not believe that … there’s an either-or option here,” White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said. “I think it’s a pretty obvious point that while we can make progress on one it will help on the other. But we can do both simultaneously.”

One official said the White House believes a two-state solution can minimize the influence of Hamas and Hezbollah in Gaza and Lebanon, in turn depriving Iran of influence in and around Israel.

Vice President Biden bluntly set the administration’s terms in the road to Middle East peace, in a speech Tuesday to AIPAC.

Biden challenged Israel to back a two-state peace agreement with the Palestinians and urged the Jewish state’s new leadership to demonstrate its commitment to such a solution. Biden also said Netanyahu’s government should stop constructing new Jewish settlements and ease restrictions on Palestinians.

“Israel has to work toward a two-state solution,” Biden said. “You’re not going to like my saying this, but not build more settlements, dismantle existing outposts and allow Palestinians freedom of movement.”

Meanwhile, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and Afghan President Hamid Karzai also were in Washington, in the run-up to a three-way meeting with Obama on Wednesday.

Zardari and Karzai will meet first Wednesday with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton before heading to the White House.


Source: Tuesday, May 05, 2009

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