Palestinians are reacting positively to their leader's summit meeting
with the president of the United States in Washington. But Israelis are
Palestinian officials say they are encouraged by President Barack Obama's meeting with his Palestinian counterpart Mahmoud Abbas Thursday at the White House. Mr. Obama called for the creation of a Palestinian state and condemned Jewish settlement expansion in the West Bank.
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat says the new U.S. administration is taking the right steps to advance the peace process. "We want any Israeli government to accept the two-state solution, agreements signed, and stop settlement activities," he said.
The settlement issue is raising tension between Israel's new right-wing government and Washington. Israel says it will not build new settlements, but it reserves the right to build in existing communities to accommodate "natural growth."
The United States opposes any construction in the settlements, and settlers are outraged. Chanie Luz lives in the West Bank settlement of Bethel near the Palestinian-ruled city of Ramallah.
"We see it as a racist statement to say that the Jews can't have children, or that Jews can't build their houses, or the Jews can't add a room onto their house because they want to have a larger house," said Luz.
Israel's hawkish Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also opposes the creation of a Palestinian state. Israel pulled out of the Palestinian-ruled Gaza Strip in 2005, and today it is controlled by Hamas, a violent Islamic militant group that refuses to recognize the Jewish state. Hamas has fired thousands of rockets across the Gaza border at Israeli communities; and Netanyahu fears a Palestinian state in the West Bank would lead to a similar situation in Israel's backyard.