ABC News' Sunlen Miller reports:
Declaring it a “senseless slaughter” President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke standing side-by-side from White House colonnade today to denounce the killing of four Israelis in the West Bank on Tuesday
“There are going to be extremists and rejectionists who, rather than seeking peace, are going to be seeking destruction,” President Obama warned on the eve of the formal direct talks Thursday, “And the tragedy that we saw yesterday, where people were gunned down on the street by terrorists who are purposely trying to undermine these talks, is an example of what we're up against.”
The two leaders had just emerged from their private bilateral meetings in the Oval Office but rather than speak about the negotiations, the two first wanted to address the violence in order to send the message that the actions will not derail the direct talks starting with Secretary of State Clinton on Thursday.
“I want everybody to be very clear: The United States is going to be unwavering in its support of Israel's security, and we are going to push back against these kinds of terrorist activities,” Obama said, “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 in which people throughout the region can take a different course.”
The president said that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s presence in Washington, during a “difficult time for his country” shows his commitment to peace.
Netanyahu called the attacks the face of “savagery and brutality” and said that their bilateral meetings also centered on the need to have security arrangements that are able to roll back this kind of terror and other threats to Israel's security.
“That is a fundamental element, an important foundation of the peace that we seek and work for,” Netanyahu said, adding that he appreciates President Obama’s efforts, “to advance this peace for us and for our neighbors, for our region and, I think we can say, for the world.”
This afternoon President Obama will meet with President Abbas of the Palestinian Authority in the Oval Office, and before he left the podium President Obama added that Abbas too has condemned the attacks.
“I have the utmost confidence in him,” Obama said of Abbas, “and his belief in a two-state solution in which the people of Israel and the Palestinians are living side by side in peace and security. And so I'm also grateful to him for his presence here today.”
The president said that much work is left to do, especially as there are those who will “do everything they can” to undermine the peace talks.
“But we are going to remain stalwart,” he pledged.
As the two men turned to walk away from the podium they both put their arm on each other’s back briefly– and President Obama walked the Prime Minister to his car parked on the driveway of the South Lawn.
President Obama will make a statement to press from the Rose Garden late this afternoon following a full days worth of private, bilateral meetings – with President Abbas of the Palestinian Authority, King Abdullah II of Jordan, and President Mubarak of Egypt.
The five men will also each be given the opportunity to speak before a closed–door dinner in the State Dining Room this evening.