White House chief of staff wants end to Israeli occupation

White House chief of staff Denis McDonough said during a conference that peace would make Israel stronger. (AP)

The United States will “never stop working towards” a two-state solution in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, White House chief of staff Denis McDonough said during a conference on Monday.

Addressing a conference organized by J Street – a liberal pro-Israel advocacy group– President Barack Obama’s top adviser added that peace would make Israel stronger, Reuters news agency reported.

"An occupation that has lasted for almost 50 years must end, and the Palestinian people must have the right to live in and govern themselves in their own sovereign state," McDonough said.

He also addressed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s remarks prior to his reelection in which he vowed he would not allow the establishment of a Palestinian state.

“We cannot pretend that these comments were never made,” McDonough said.

He said the United States has expended much energy on diplomatic efforts promoting a two-state solution and that was why the Israeli leader’s comments last week “were so very troubling.”

Separately, the official reiterated Obama’s remarks on Jewish settlements, saying the U.S. would continue to oppose these activities as they undermine prospect for peace.

“We will continue to oppose settlement activities since it undermines the prospects of that peace,” he said.

The White House chief of staff's comments drew cheers of approval from the audience at J Street.

The group, a proponent of two states side by side, opposed Netanyahu in the election campaign and sharply criticized both his reversal on Palestinian statehood and remarks in which he accused left-wingers from abroad of working to turn out minority Arab Israeli voters to unseat him.

Netanyahu apologized to Arab Israelis on Monday for those comments.  

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