Obama: 'Seize the opportunity' in Mideast

April 5, 2011 at 4:19 PM
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WASHINGTON, April 5 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama Tuesday said it's more important than ever to "seize the opportunity" now to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.

Obama talked to reporters after his meeting with Israeli President Shimon Peres, saying he and the Israeli leader "share a belief" the current unrest sweeping the Arab world is both a "challenge and an opportunity; that with the winds of change blowing through the Arab world, it's more urgent than ever that we try to seize the opportunity to create a peaceful solution between the Palestinians and the Israelis, and he has some very interesting ideas around those issues."

Obama said Peres recognizes Egypt's democracy will need nurturing and it will be necessary to make sure Egyptians have access to economic opportunity.

"And so we explored some ideas about how we can provide some help and make sure that young people there see a brighter future," Obama said.

Peres, writing in an op-ed article published in The Guardian ahead of his meeting with Obama, said Israel is watching what happens in Egypt "with great expectation."

"A great revolt has been initiated by young people and women, to gain freedom, bread and hope," he wrote. "These events are both unprecedented and unplanned.

"Israel welcomes the wind of change, and sees a window of opportunity."

Peres said there is an opportunity to increase prosperity in the region by redefining what is meaningful, including valuing technological developments and science more than land.

"The older generation had greater respect for land than science," Peres said in the article. "But we live in an age when science, more than soil, has become the provider of growth and abundance. Living just on the land creates loneliness in an age of globality.

"Democratic and science-based economies by nature desire peace. Israel does not want to be an island of affluence in an ocean of poverty. Improvements in our neighbors' lives mean improvements to the neighborhood in which we live."

"Israel is more than willing to offer our experience in building a modern economy in spite of limited resources to the whole region. We seek only the acceptance from our neighbors and the opportunity to play a full role in the life of the region."

The Guardian said Peres' article could be seen as encouraging some in Israel to realize the need to give up territory to be used to create a Palestinian state.

Many Israelis are unwilling to give up land conquered in the June 1967 Six-Day War in exchange for peace. In that war, Israel took effective control of the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt, the West Bank and East Jerusalem from Jordan and the Golan Heights from Syria.

Peres' meeting with Obama covered the Middle East and North Africa turbulence, U.S.-Israeli security cooperation and stalled regional peace efforts, the White House said.

U.S.-brokered peace negotiations between Israel and Palestinian leaders stalled Sept. 26 when a temporary freeze on Jewish settlement building in the West Bank expired.

The Israeli leader last visited the White House in May 2009.

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