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Middle East

Obama says Israel security guarantee possible

US president says a two-state Middle East peace solution that guarantees the Jewish state's security should work.

Last updated: 07 Dec 2013 20:35
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US President Barack Obama speaks alongside Saban Forum Chairman Haim Saban [AFP]

US President Barack Obama said his government has concluded it is possible for a two-state Middle East peace solution that includes sufficient guarantees to protect Israeli security.

Obama on Saturday said the determination had been made by the US special envoy on security, General John Allen, who has been briefing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on possible security arrangements following any final peace deal.

"He has arrived at the conclusion that it is possible to create a two-state solution that preserves Israel's core security needs," Obama said at the Brookings Institution's Saban Forum in Washington.

"That's his conclusion, but ultimately he's not the decision maker here, Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Israeli military and intelligence folks have to make that determination."

Allen, who has been working with Secretary of State John Kerry on his Middle East peace push, briefed Netanyahu Thursday.

Kerry and Allen, who has been working on the security issue with Israeli defence experts, provided Netanyahu and his top brass "with some thoughts about... security challenges that we're going to be facing, that the Israelis are facing," said deputy State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf.

Netanyahu said that under any peace agreement, Israel "must be able to defend itself, by itself, with our own forces" - an allusion to the reported debate over security in the Jordan Valley, which separates the West Bank from neighbouring Jordan.

Military question

Israel has always insisted that in any final agreement it would have to maintain a military presence there, and has rejected outright the idea of any third party involvement.

Obama also warned that, in the event of a final agreement, the Palestinians would have to accept Israel would require a "transition period" to ensure that the West Bank did not become a security threat akin to Hamas-ruled Gaza.

"This transition period requires some restraint on the part of the Palestinians as well. They don't get everything they want on day one," he said.

The State Department, meanwhile, said that Kerry would meet Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Sunday morning in Washington.

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