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Obama Sees 'Positive Movement' in Netanyahu Speech


U.S. President Barack Obama says he detected some positive movement in the speech Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered Sunday on the Middle East peace process. The president sees reason for hope in Mr. Netanyahu's remarks about the creation of a Palestinian state.

President Obama is urging Arab leaders to avoid the temptation to rush to judgment and take a close look at Mr. Netanyahu's speech.

"I think any time an Israeli prime minister makes a statement, the immediate reaction tends to be negative on one side," Mr. Obama said. "If the other side is making a statement, oftentimes the reaction is negative in Israel."

Mr. Obama says the mere fact that Mr. Netanyahu is willing to consider a two-state solution - even with conditions attached - is a positive step forward.

"There were a lot of conditions. And, obviously, working through the conditions on Israel's side for security as well as the Palestinian side for sovereignty and territorial integrity and the capacity to have a functioning, prosperous state - that's exactly what negotiations are supposed to be about," he said. "But what we're seeing is at least the possibility that we can restart serious talks."

In his address on Sunday, the Israeli prime minister said he would accept a demilitarized Palestinian state as long as it recognized Israel as a Jewish state. Mr. Netanyahu also said Israeli settlement activity would continue.

President Obama says he understands Israel's security concerns, but stresses that both sides need to make tough political choices in order to get the peace process back on track.

"I think the parties on the ground understand that if you have a continuation of settlements that, in past agreements, have been categorized as illegal, that's going to be an impediment to progress," added Mr. Obama.

Speaking to reporters at the end of a White House meeting with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, President Obama also emphasized the need for Palestinians to accept Israel's right to exist, and bring an end to violence against the Israeli people.

Mr. Obama referred to the themes of the speech he recently delivered to the world's Muslims from Cairo. He talked about the need for Arab states to support the peace process. And he promised that the United States would try to act as an honest broker and help move the peace process in a new direction.

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