WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama on Tuesday urged Israel and the Palestinians to step back from the abyss, saying he expected good faith gestures from both sides in coming months as part of a bid to revive stalled peace efforts.
In White House talks, Obama reassured Jordan's King Hussein of his commitment to a two-state solution to the Middle East conflict, despite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's reluctance to commit to the goal of a Palestinian state.
Obama's pledge of serious engagement in Middle East peacemaking has been complicated by the emergence of Netanyahu's new right-leaning Israeli government.
What we have to do is step back from the abyss, Obama told reporters after meeting Abdullah.
Obama said he expected to meet Netanyahu when he visits the United States. No date for the trip has been announced.
Nudging Netanyahu to accept the principle of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, Obama said, They're going to have to solidify their position.
He voiced hope that over the next few months you start seeing gestures of good faith on both sides.
We can't talk forever, Obama said. At some point, steps have to be taken.
Obama reiterated his promise to make Middle East peace a priority for his administration, in contrast to his predecessor George W. Bush, who was widely criticized for a more hands-off approach to the decades-old conflict.
U.S. re-engagement in long-stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts is seen as a key thrust of Obama's bid to repair Washington's image in the world.