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Friday, March 27, 2009

CAMP DAVID ACCORDS

Obama Praises Those Who Pursued Peace

At a time when peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors appears in some ways more remote than ever, President Obama commemorated the 30th anniversary of the U.S.-brokered Camp David accords Thursday with a nod to his theme of persistence.

The peace treaty between Egypt and Israel, which returned the Sinai Peninsula to the Egyptians in exchange for recognition of the Jewish state, was signed at the White House after being mediated by President Jimmy Carter. In the Arab world, only Jordan has followed Egypt's lead since then in recognizing Israel.

Obama noted in a statement Thursday that the Camp David treaty "demonstrated that progress results from sustained efforts at communication and cooperation."

"While much work remains, we honor the courage and foresight of these leaders, who stood together in unity to change the course of our shared history," the president said in the statement. "Today, as we seek to expand the circle of peace among Arabs and Israelis, we take inspiration from what Israel and Egypt achieved three decades ago, knowing that the destination is worthy of the struggle."

Israel's prime minister in waiting is Binyamin Netanyahu, who comes from the same hawkish Likud party as Menachem Begin, the Israeli leader who signed the Camp David accords. Netanyahu has never embraced the creation of an independent state for Palestinians, a condition that many Arab states say must be in place before they will recognize Israel.

Asked at his Tuesday news conference how the incoming Israeli government would affect peace efforts, Obama said: "It's not easier than it was, but I think it's just as necessary." The next day, Netanyahu pledged to pursue peace talks with the Palestinians.

The Palestinian national movement is also divided over how to approach peace talks with Israel. The armed Islamist movement Hamas rejects Israel's right to exist, yet controls the Gaza Strip and exerts some political influence in the West Bank. The rival Fatah party endorses a two-state solution with Israel, but it is weak and unpopular in much of the Palestinian territories.

-- Scott Wilson

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