White House calls speech ‘important step forward’

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The White House welcomed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech as an “important step forward."

"The President is committed to two states, a Jewish state of Israel and an independent Palestine, in the historic homeland of both peoples," said a statement Sunday from White House press secretary Robert Gibbs. "He believes this solution can and must ensure both Israel’s security and the fulfillment of the Palestinians’ legitimate aspirations for a viable state, and he welcomes Prime Minister Netanyahu’s endorsement of that goal."

Netanyahu endorsed a Palestinian state, provided that Israel received assurances that the state would be demilitarized and the Palestinians recognized Israel as a Jewish state.

The Obama administration did not mention Netanyahu’s statement on West Bank settlements. The White House has demanded that all Israeli settlement construction cease. Netanyahu said Israel would not expand existing towns, but appeared to endorse natural growth by saying that settlers need to be able to live "normal lives."

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