Obama, Netanyahu Discuss Syria, Palestinian Statehood and Regional Security

Washington, Aug. 11 – U.S. President Barack Obama and Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu spoke by phone Wednesday (Aug. 10) to discuss issues ranging from the ongoing violent crackdown in Syria to the Palestinian leadership’s unilateral plan to achieve statehood by seeking approval from the U.N. General Assembly next month.

The two leaders consulted “on regional issues and efforts to achieve Middle East peace,” according to a White House statement issued Wednesday.

According to activists, the Syrian regime has killed more than 2,000 people  in the past several months as it attempts to suppress protests against the leadership of President Bashar al-Assad. This week the United States placed sanctions on Syria’s largest commercial bank, the Commercial Bank of Syria, and Syria’s biggest cellular phone company in its effort to weaken the regime.

"The behavior of Assad is absolutely unacceptable; he has lost any legitimacy to lead," said U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice.

Earlier Thursday, Syrian forces killed five people, injured 16 others and arrested more than 100 people in assaults in the central city of Homs and near the borders with Turkey and Lebanon.

In the past President Obama articulated his opposition to the Palestinians’ so-called unilateral declaration of independence, a move designed to bypass returning to the negotiating table to hammer out details of a two-state solution. The President, however, has been unsuccessful in his bid to convince the Palestinians to resume talks with Israelis.

“For the Palestinians, efforts to delegitimize Israel will end in failure,” President Obama said in a speech May 19. “Symbolic actions to isolate Israel at the United Nations in September won’t create an independent state...and Palestinians will never realize their independence by denying the right of Israel to exist.”

Netanyahu has said time and again that Israel is willing to negotiate with the Palestinians whenever they are ready. On Wednesday (Aug. 10), in the latest such declaration, the  Prime Minister told a delegation of visiting U.S. Congress members, “The only way to achieve peace between us and the Palestinians is through direct negotiations. We are ready and willing to launch negotiations without any preconditions."

A day earlier, newly appointed U.S. Ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, toured Israel’s Iron Dome short-range missile, rocket and mortar defense system. Shapiro gave assurances that the United States would continue security funding to Israel.

According to the White House statement following the Obama-Netanyahu phone conversation, “The Prime Minister expressed appreciation for U.S. support for Israel’s security, in particular the Iron Dome short-range rocket and mortar defense system. The two leaders agreed to continue to work closely together to address common security concerns.”

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