Israeli and Palestinian leaders are meeting in Washington today for their first direct talks in nearly two years. President Obama kicked off the negotiations on Wednesday with a day of preparatory meetings at the White House also involving Jordan and Egypt. Speaking from the Rose Garden, Obama said the US aims to resolve all of the issues in the way of a peace deal.
President Obama: "These negotiations are intended to resolve all final status issues. The goal is a settlement negotiated between the parties that ends the occupation which began in 1967 and results in the emergence of an independent, democratic and viable Palestinian state living side-by-side in peace and security with a Jewish state of Israel and its other neighbors. That’s the vision we are pursuing."
Both sides agreed to sit down last month after the US successfully pressured Palestinian leaders to drop their precondition of an Israeli settlement freeze. In advance of the talks, the Obama administration also rejected a Palestinian request for the US to present a peace plan of its own, as President Bill Clinton did just months before leaving office. Nabil Shaath of the Palestinian Authority said President Obama has vowed to pressure Israel on settlement construction.
Nabil Shaath: "He expressed his big interest, and that of his administration, to reach a solution that would lead to an independent Palestinian state that encompasses all the goals and ambitions of the Palestinian people, and that this goal must be achieved now. He also stressed that this is in America’s interest, not just in Palestinian, Arab or Israeli interests. And he stressed that he would do all he can to reach an agreement within a year, and that he will do all he can to stop the settlements. That was his principal message."
Also Wednesday, Palestinian militants shot and wounded two Israeli settlers as they drove in the occupied West Bank. The shootings came one day after Palestinian militants killed four Israeli settlers in the West Bank town of Hebron. The military wing of the Palestinian group Hamas has claimed responsibility for both attacks. Residents of the Israeli settlement of Adam announced they would respond with the immediate resumption of construction of Jewish-only homes.