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President Obama emphasizes peace on 2nd day of Mideast tour

March 21, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
President Barack Obama met with Palestinian officials on the second day of his Mideast tour. The president's goal was to emphasize the importance of reaching an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.

Mr. Obama got a first-hand look at the ongoing tensions in the region Thursday. Several rockets were fired from Gaza into Southern Israel. There were no reports of injuries and the president's trip was not impacted by those rockets.

Earlier Thursday, Mr. Obama visited a museum with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The two leaders talked about restarting peace talks in the region.

The president also visited the West Bank, where he met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The president is also pushing for Israelis and Palestinians to come back to the negotiating table, and he is making it clear that Palestinians deserve a sovereign state.

"I've returned to the West Bank because the United States is deeply committed to the creation of an independent and sovereign state of Palestine. The Palestinian people deserve an end to occupation and the daily indignities that come with it," Mr. Obama said. "Palestinians deserve to move and travel freely and to feel secure in their communities. Like people everywhere, Palestinians deserve a future of hope."

The other big concern for everyone in the region is the ongoing civil war in Syria. The Syrian government claims that the rebels have used chemical weapons in the fighting.

The president says he doubts those reports, though he says the U.S. is investigating.

Syria does have a large stockpile of chemical weapons, and there are concerns they could be used in the fighting or fall into the hands of terrorist groups.

The president was back in Jerusalem Thursday night, where he spoke to Israeli college students about efforts to restart peace talks in the region. He told them that peace is possible, but only with compromise, insisting the road to lasting security begins with recognizing an independent Palestine.

"Look at the world through their eyes. It is not fair that a Palestinian child cannot grow up in a state of their own," the president said.

Meantime, the tree that Mr. Obama planted in Israeli President Shimon Peres' garden may now be uprooted for inspection.

The tree was grown from a set of seeds from the original Jackson Magnolia on the South Lawn of the White House.

Mr. Obama planted the tree Wednesday to symbolize the relationship between the U.S, and Israel. However, Israeli law forbids plants and trees from other countries from entering Israel.

Local agricultural officials are now saying the tree will be tested next week and possibly removed.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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