Israel still committed to 'two states for two peoples': PM Netanyahu
JERUSALEM - Agence France-Presse
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gestures as he speaks during a joint news conference with President Barack Obama, Wednesday, March 20, 2013, at the prime minister's residence in Jerusalem. AP Photo/Carolyn KasterIsrael is "fully committed" to resolving the decades-long conflict with the Palestinians with a solution which involves two states for two peoples, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday.
Speaking at a joint news conference with Barack Obama, Netanyahu said the US president's historic visit presented "an opportunity to try and find a way to advance peace" with the Palestinians.
And he insisted his new rightwing government which was sworn in on Monday, was committed to seeking an end to the conflict.
"My new government was sworn in two days ago. I know there have been questions regarding what the policy of the new government will be towards peace with the Palestinians.
"So let me be clear: Israel remains fully committed to peace and to the solution of two states for two peoples," he said, in what was the first time he has publicly used the term since the January elections.
Netanyahu's new coalition government was elected on a socio-economic ticket, with pundits saying it was unlikely to pursue a renewal of peace talks with anything approaching enthusiasm.
"I hope that your visit, along with the visit of Secretary of State Kerry will help us turn a page in our relations with the Palestinians," Netanyahu said.
Obama's arrival comes after a two-and-a-half year deadlock in direct talks which broke down just weeks after they were personally launched by the US president in September 2010.
The negotiations broke down over an intractable dispute over Israel's settlement building on land the Palestinians want for a future state.
On Thursday, Obama will travel to Ramallah for talks with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas at 0900 GMT although the White House has downplayed expectations his visit would overcome the deadlock in peace efforts.
Obama has said he is here "to listen" but has made clear he will warn the Palestinians that initiatives like seeking statehood recognition at the United Nations are counterproductive.
Disillusioned by the failure of Obama's first-term peace efforts, the Palestinians are hoping he will help broker the release of more than 1,000 prisoners held by Israel and also free up $700 million in blocked US aid.
Kerry is expected to travel with Obama to Jordan on Friday but return to Israel on Saturday evening "to review the results of the president's visit following his stops in Ramallah and Amman," a State Department official told AFP.