US President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference at Camp David in Maryland May 14, 2015.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
CAMP DAVID -- Sixty-seven years to the day since Israel declared independence, and 37 years since it signed a peace accord with Egypt here at the American presidential retreat in Maryland, US President Barack Obama cast doubt on the prospects for peace between Israel and the Palestinian people on Thursday after meeting with Arab leaders.
A final Israeli-Palestinian accord "seems distant now," Obama said from Camp David, reiterating the US position that an agreement recognizing two states for two peoples is "absolutely vital" for greater Middle East peace.
"Since we're up here at Camp David, I think it's important to remind ourselves of the degree to which a very hard peace deal that required incredible vision and courage and tough choices resulted in what’s now been a lasting peace between countries that used to be sworn enemies," Obama said. "And Israel is better off for it. I think the same would be true if we get a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians."
"That prospect seems distant now," he continued. "But I think it's always important for us to keep in mind what’s right and what’s possible."
Israel was only a brief agenda item at the rare summit here at the Maryland camp, where the president hosted leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council for six hours of meetings. The parties focused on a cohesive security plan between the US and the GCC, but both parties "strongly affirmed the necessity of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the basis of a just, lasting, comprehensive peace agreement."
The GCC agreed in a joint statement with the US that a peace accord must result "in an independent and contiguous Palestinian state living side-by-side in peace and security with Israel," it read. "To that end, the United States and GCC member states underscored the enduring importance of the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative and the urgent need for the parties to demonstrate—through policies and actions—genuine advancement of a two-state solution, and decided to remain closely engaged moving forward."
The US and the Gulf union, comprised of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and the United Arab Emirates, also recommitted to the reconstruction of Gaza after Israel's Operation Protective Edge last summer.
Obama recognized Israel's successful formation of a government
, but noted that some of its members are openly opposed to the creation of a Palestinian state.
Israel's cabinet was sworn into office on Thursday evening by a vote in the Knesset of 61-59.
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