STATE DEPARTMENT — U.S. President Barack Obama says Israeli and Palestinian leaders are facing tough decisions about Middle East peace, less than two months before the scheduled end of U.S.-led talks on a two-state solution. President Obama met Monday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House.
President Obama said "tough" negotiations over "profound" issues dividing Israelis and Palestinians require compromise on all sides.
"It's my believe that ultimately it is still possible to create two states - a Jewish state of Israel and a state of Palestine - in which people are living side-by-side in peace and security. But it's difficult," said President Obama.
Obama commended Prime Minister Netanyahu for the seriousness with which he has taken the latest round of peace talks, but said he knows Netanyahu will ultimately make his decisions based on his "absolute commitment to Israeli security."
The prime minister said the Israeli people expect him to hold out for the best possible deal.
"The only peace that will endure is a peace that we can defend. And we have learned from our history, Jewish history, but I think from general history that the best way to guarantee peace is to be strong," said Netanyahu.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says Washington is trying to address those Israeli security concerns "with the combination of the best American military experience, the best ideas in the Pentagon, and the best technology."
Kerry's efforts to reach a two-state solution have been slowed by divisions over the borders of those two states, by new Jewish settlements in occupied territories, and by the status of Jerusalem as a Palestinian capital.
In an interview published Sunday by Bloomberg View, Obama said Washington would be unable to defend Israel from a backlash on the international stage, including a growing threat of boycotts and diplomatic isolation, if the peace talks fail.
Obama is scheduled to meet later this month with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.