Obama urges Abbas to take risks for peace

‘We remain convinced there is an opportunity,’ Obama told reporters as Abbas sat beside him in the Oval Office

Published: Updated:

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas was told by U.S President Barack Obama on Monday that both he and Israel’s politicians must be prepared to make tough decisions and take “risks” or peace.

“As I said to Prime Minister Netanyahu when he was here just a few weeks ago, I believe that now is the time .... to embrace this opportunity,” Obama said.

“It is very hard, very challenging. We are going to have to take some tough political decisions and risks if we’re able to move it forward.”

Abbas arrived at the White House two weeks after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, warning that time was running short for a final deal, and said Israel could show it was serious by honoring a scheduled release of Palestinian prisoners this month.

Obama is pushing both sides to accept a U.S.-drafted framework to carry negotiations past an end-of-April deadline.

Abbas told Obama: “We don’t have any time to waste.

“Time is not on our side, especially given the very difficult situation that the Middle East is experiencing and the entire region is facing,” he said.

Abbas did not use a photo opportunity before the talks to directly address the Israeli government’s demand for the Palestinians to recognize Israel as a “Jewish” state in public.

But he did say through a translator that the Palestinians had recognized Israel’s legitimacy in 1988 and in “1993 we recognized the state of Israel.”

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat told Agence France-Presse that “Abbas confirmed his position to President Obama refusing to recognize Israel as a Jewish State.”

Abbas also noted in the photo-op the agreement that the Palestinians have with Israel on the release of a fourth batch of prisoners by March 29.

“This will give a very solid impression about the seriousness of these efforts to achieve peace,” Abbas said.

(With AFP)