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Netanyahu's speech prompts anger from Palestinians, praise from the White House

Palestinian negotiator Erekat calls it a 'slap in the face,' while the White House calls the speech 'an important step forward.'

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The White House praised Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's endorsement Sunday of a Palestinian state as "an important step forward," giving the Israeli leader a key victory in his attempt to mend a diplomatic rift with the US over the Israeli-Arab peace process.

In Israel, however, the foreign policy speech immediately drew fire from Palestinians and all sides of the Israeli political spectrum. But Mr. Netanyahu appeared to garner enough initial backing to keep his governing coalition out of danger of faltering.

Palestinians not impressed

Although right-wing ideologues in his coalition assailed the speech as "dangerous" for supporting the creation of a Palestinian state, Palestinians said Netanyahu closed the door for peace talks by ruling out the repatriation of refugees to Israel and by insisting that Jerusalem remain united under Israeli rule.

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat assailed the speech as a "slap in the face" to President Obama's recent efforts to bring peace to the region. He called on Arab states to reject Israeli calls for normalization of diplomatic ties until Israel takes concrete steps toward withdrawing from the West Bank and until it supports the Arab peace initiative that calls for a comprehensive peace in return for a full Israeli retreat from the territories it captured in the 1967 Arab-Israel War.

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