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Obama touts Mideast peace

- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Trying to jump-start the Middle East peace process, President Obama met with King Abdullah II of Jordan on Tuesday, hosting his first Middle Eastern leader in the Oval Office, and invited the leaders of Israel, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority for future visits.

Mr. Obama said there's "profound cynicism" among both Israelis and Palestinians about a chance for peace, and said he wants to see if it's possible to restart the process.

"What we want to do is to step back from the abyss; to say, as hard as it is, as difficult as it may be, the prospect of peace still exists, but it's going to require some hard choices," he said.

The president said he's still in listening mode but that soon, all sides will have to take concrete action to show they are serious about peace.

"At some point, steps have to be taken so that people can see progress on the ground," Mr. Obama said. "And that will be something that we will expect to take place in the coming months and we will help hopefully to drive a process where each side is willing to build confidence."

His wording drew a rebuke from the Anti-Defamation League, which said the president was selling Israel's efforts short.

"We find this comment disturbing because it leaves the impression that Israel has not acted for peace," the ADL's leaders said in a statement, pointing to Israeli overtures in 2000 and 2005. "We believe that both Israelis and Palestinians will have to make concessions for peace. We hope that the president will acknowledge that Israel has already taken significant steps toward peace, and that he urge the Palestinians and the Arab world to take positive steps as well."

Mr. Obama said he didn't want to specify what gestures both sides need to make, but said those in the region "probably have a pretty good recognition of what intermediate steps could be taken as confidence-building measures."

The White House said no date has been set for the meetings with other regional leaders, though they will occur before the end of May.

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