On his second day in the region U.S. President Barack Obama made the short trip from Jerusalem to Ramallah to hold talks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
During a press conference following their meeting President Obama reaffirmed his administration’s belief that the “Palestinians deserve an end to occupation and the indignities that come with it,” through an “independent, viable and contiguous Palestinian state as the homeland of the Palestinian people alongside the Jewish state of Israel.”
“Put simply,” he said, “Palestinians deserve a state of their own.”
As for the possibility of a two-state solution President Obama said that “the status quo on the ground continues to evolve in a direction that makes it harder to reach a two-state solution.” Taking questions after his brief remarks the president said that this is in part due to continued settlement activity, but backed away from calling for a settlement freeze, saying that “If the expectation is that we can only have direct negotiations when everything is settled ahead of time then there’s no point in negotiations.”
The president said he believes a two-state solution is “still possible but…very difficult,” and added that the two sides “cannot give up ” because of “young Palestinians and young Israelis,” who want to live alongside one another in peace.
He congratulated President Abbas and PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad for the development of the West Bank, and pointed out the contrast “to the misery and oppression so many Palestinians continue to confront in Gaza because Hamas refuses to renounce violence.”
During his remarks President Abbas said that Palestinians want the “rights of independence, freedom and peace,” and reaffirmed that Palestinians want a state along the pre-1967 lines with a capital in Jerusalem.
Abbas said that Palestinians want a two-state solution, “Palestine and Israel,” but that “peace should not be made through violence, occupation, settlements, arrests, siege,” and the denial of the rights of refugees. He also asserted that a Palestinian unity deal would be a key to peace.