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At West Bank, Obama Compare Israeli - Palestinian Conflict to US - Canada Relation

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Published on Mar 21, 2013

RAMALLAH, West Bank -- U.S. President Barack Obama is meeting Palestinian officials on the second day of his Mideast tour to emphasize the importance of reaching an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, a message underscored Thursday when Palestinian militants in Gaza launched rockets into southern Israel.

After a visit to Israel's national museum - where he inspected the Dead Sea Scrolls, which highlight the Jewish people's ancient connection to the land that is now Israel - Obama headed to the West Bank to tell the Palestinians that the creation of a Palestinian state remains a priority for his administration.

He is not bringing a new plan to relaunch peace talks, but in meetings with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and a speech to Israeli students later in the day, he will appeal to both sides to halt unilateral actions that make negotiations more difficult.

Those troublesome actions include continued construction of Jewish housing settlements on land claimed by the Palestinians and repeated Palestinian efforts to achieve recognition at the United Nations in the absence of a peace agreement.

Yasser Abed-Rabbo, an aide Abbas, said before the meeting that the Palestinians will tell Obama they won't return to negotiations with Israel without a settlement freeze.

"There can be no real (peace) process with the continuation of settlement activities on our lands," he said, adding that the issue of settlements is central to the Obama-Abbas meeting.

Palestinians argue that they cannot negotiate a border between Israel and a future Palestine while Israel unilaterally shapes that line through accelerated settlement building.

The Palestinians want a state in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem - territories Israel captured in the 1967 war - but are ready for minor adjustments to accommodate some settlements closest to Israel. Since 1967, Israel has built dozens of settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem that are now home to 560,000 Israelis - an increase of 60,000 since Obama became president four years ago.

Palestinians argue that only strong U.S. pressure can get Israel to change course and halt its settlement enterprise, but doubt Obama is willing to do so. Obama's wooing of Israeli public opinion during his current trip has further enforced such perceptions.

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