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Obama sees ‘positive movement’ in Bibi speech

WASHINGTON (JTA) — President Obama said there was "positive movement" in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s policy speech.

"He acknowledged the need for two states," said Obama in remarks to reporters Monday afternoon following a meeting with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, the first time he personally commented on Netanyahu’s address Sunday at Bar-Ilan University.

"There were a lot of conditions, and obviously working through the conditions on Israel’s side for security, as well as the Palestinian side for sovereignty and territorial integrity and the capacity to have a functioning, prosperous state, that’s exactly what negotiations are supposed to be about. But what we’re seeing is at least the possibility that we can restart serious talks."

Obama also reiterated that Israel’s security is "non-negotiable," and again stressed the importance of freezing settlements.

"I’ve also made very clear that both sides are going to have to move in some politically difficult ways in order to achieve what is going to be in the long-term interests of the Israelis and the Palestinians and the international community," he said. "On the Israeli side, that means a cessation of settlements, and there is a tendency to try to parse exactly what this means, but I think the parties on the ground understand that if you have a continuation of settlements that in past agreements have been categorized as illegal, that’s going to be an impediment to progress."

Obama went on to say that the Palestinians, among other requirements, must put an "end to incitement against Israel and an end to violence against Israel."

The president also noted, in responding to a question about the negative reaction of the Arab world to the speech, that it was important not to "immediately assess the situation based on commentary the day after the speech."

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