Axelrod: Israelis, Palestinians must rise

June 7, 2009 at 7:49 PM
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WASHINGTON, June 7 (UPI) -- U.S. senior presidential adviser David Axelrod said Sunday Israeli and Palestinian leaders must rise above past politics and reach a peace agreement.

Speaking on CNN's "State of the Union," Axelrod said President Barack Obama is sending George Mitchell as his special envoy to the Middle East to help facilitate productive talks between the two sides on a settlement that would give Palestinians the homeland and Israelis the security they desire. He said Obama's speech in Cairo last week "clears away some of the debris that has stood in the way of progress."

"Well, certainly we want to get them back talking to each other. And I think there is a recognition -- a broad recognition in the region that there needs to be progress," Axelrod said. "One of the great heartening things about the president's speech in Cairo is the enormously positive reaction it generated across the region and around the world.

"And our hope is now we can take advantage of that."

Axelrod stressed Israel is the United States' strongest ally in the region.

"We have bonds that are not just strategic, but bonds of the heart with Israel, and we care deeply about its security and we want peace to come so Israel can live in peace, in secure borders and -- but that's not going to come without people stepping up and -- and challenging the prevailing politics on both sides, and the president is urging them to do that," he said.

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