(RAMALLAH, West Bank) -- One day after President Obama praised Israeli leaders and reaffirmed U.S. support for Israel, he spent the morning in the occupied West Bank, meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and other political leaders who are frustrated with the frozen peace process.
Speaking at a joint press conference with Abbas, Obama vowed that the United States remains “deeply committed to the creation of an independent sovereign state of Palestine” and as part of a two-state solution.
“We cannot give up. We cannot give up on the search for peace, no matter how hard it is,” he said.
“The Palestinian people deserve an end to occupation and the daily indignities that come with it. Palestinians deserve to move and travel freely, and to feel secure in their communities. Like people everywhere, Palestinians deserve a future of hope,” he said.
But there is little hope here that the Obama administration will be able to jumpstart the peace process.
“The people of Palestine, Mr. President, who receive you today aspire to attain the simplest rights,” Abbas said. “The right to freedom, independence and peace, and look forward to that day to come in which they exercise normal and natural life over the land of the state of Palestine.”
“We, Mr. President, believe that peace is necessary and inevitable, and we also believe that it is possible,” Abbas continued. “We believe that peacemaking, as much as it requires political courage, also requires an expression of good faith, a recognition of people’s rights, respect for the other, and dissemination of a culture of peace and a commitment to international legitimacy and its resolutions.”
But peace, Abbas said, will not come "through violence, occupation, walls, settlements, arrests, siege and denial of refugee rights.”
Lowering expectations ahead of the trip, the White House made clear the president would not be laying out any new peace initiative during his visit.
Obama reiterated that his administration remains "committed to realizing the vision of two states" and underscored that the only way to achieve that goal is through direct negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians. "There is no shortcut to a sustainable solution,” he said.
Marine One touched down in Ramallah a little before 11 a.m. local time in a cloud of dust.
Obama was greeted by Abbas who led the American leader down a red carpet to review a uniformed guard and then into the headquarters where Yasir Arafat’s picture still hangs in a place of honor.
The two leaders then huddled behind closed-doors for what Abbas described as a “good and useful round of talks.”
The president’s West Bank visit was brief. He spent roughly five hours in the there before returning to Jerusalem to deliver a major address to Israeli youth on the strong ties between the U.S. and Israel.
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