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Obama: Israel Can't 'Permanently Occupy' Palestinian Land

President Barack Obama has asserted that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can only be settled by a two-state solution. In the the president’s view, both sides have to compromise in order to diffuse tensions.

On Sept. 20, Obama addressed the United Nations General Assembly in New York. The crux of Obama’s speech was that the international community had to meet challenges through cooperation instead of escalation, The Times of Israel reports.

The president extended this theme to both Israel and Palestine.

“Surely Israelis and Palestinians will be better off in Palestinians reject incitement and recognize the legitimacy of Israel,” Obama said. “But Israel must recognize that it cannot permanently occupy and settle Palestinian land.

“We all have to do better,” Obama concluded.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has escalated as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been bullish in efforts to expand settlements in the West Bank. The international community has criticized Israel for the settlement construction, asserting that the land actually belongs to Palestine, The New York Times reports.

On Sept. 9, Netanyahu sparked outrage when he stated in a video that the Palestinians wanted the Israeli occupation of the West Bank to withdraw because they were aiming for “ethnic cleansing.”

Adviser Xavier Abu Eid of the Palestine Liberation Organization fired back: “There is a difference between settlers living in exclusive communities on stolen land and someone who is living in the country as a citizen like anybody else.”

Netanyahu has been criticized for making strategic decisions that indicate he is not interested in a two-state solution.

Before Obama spoke, UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon urged for Israel to compromise with the Palestinians during his address to the assembly.

“This is madness,” Ban said. “Replacing a two-state solution with a one-state construct would spell doom: denying Palestinians their freedom and rightful future, and pushing Israel further from its vision of a Jewish democracy towards greater global isolation.”

Obama and Netanyahu have for years been at odds over settlements in the West Bank.

On Sept. 21, Obama met with Netanyahu privately. It will be the final meeting between the two leaders before Obama leaves the White House.

Before the meeting, Obama told reporters that they would discuss the Syrian Civil War, Israeli security and the West Bank.

“Clearly there is great danger of not just terrorism but also flare-ups of violence,” Obama said, according to CNN. “We do have concerns about settlement activity as well.”

Sources: CNN, The New York TimesThe Times of Israel / Photo credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

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