President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday condemned the murder of four Israeli settlers in the West Bank and vowed not to let the attack derail the Middle East peace talks kicking off at the White House.
Emerging from a private meeting with Netanyahu, Obama lamented the “senseless slaughter” that took place Tuesday near Hebron, an attack for which the military wing of Hamas has claimed responsibility. The president said the incident exemplifies what peace proponents are up against but said the U.S. is “unwavering” in its commitment to helping to create a Palestinian state—and sustained peace in the region—in one year.
“The message should go out to Hamas and everybody else who is taking credit for these heinous crimes that this is not going to stop us from not only ensuring a secure Israel but also securing a longer lasting peace with the people throughout the region,” he said.
Obama also thanked the Israeli prime minister for “still being so committed to the cause of peace” in the face of attacks.
Netanyahu, who stood alongside Obama during his remarks, lashed out at the terrorists as “people [who] have no respect for human life and trample human rights into the dust and butcher everything that they oppose.” He praised Obama’s commitment to combating terrorism and to taking a serious approach to forging peace in the region.
“I think we can say for the world, Thank you,'” he said.
Obama’s meeting with Netanyahu was the first in a series of bilateral meetings aimed at jump-starting talks on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which the administration has been pushing for since the last round of negotiations broke down at the end of the George W. Bush administration, Later Wednesday, the president will meet individually with President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority, President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and King Abdullah of Jordan. Formal negotiations with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will begin Thursday.