Barack Obama has said he told Israeli Prime Minister Benjanmin Netanyahu that Jewish settlement activity was "not constructive." The US President is in the West Bank as part of a four-day tour of the region.
"I've been clear with Prime Minister Netanyahu and other Israeli leadership that ... we do not consider continued settlement activity to be constructive, to be appropriate, to be something that can advance the cause of peace," Obama said at a joint news conference with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas Thursday.
Obama added that he remained committed to the creation of an "independent, viable and contiguous" Palestinian state.
"Palestinians deserve a state of their own," he said, adding that he had not lost hope in reaching a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine but offered no proposals of his own.
The American president urged Palestinians not to give up on peace, "no matter how hard it is," adding that the only way to achieve progress was through direct Israeli-Palestinian talks.
Abbas told Obama that peace with Israel should not be achieved through violence, occupation, settlements, arrests or denial of refugee rights.
Not as warm a welcome
Obama flew by helicopter over the barbed wire fences and walls of the Israeli separation barrier earlier Thursday to the Muqataa presidential compound in Ramallah, where he was greeted by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
After the overwhelmingly warm greeting in Israel the day before, Obama got a less positive reception in Ramallah.
Some 150 Palestinian protesters gathered in the city to protest the US president's first visit to the West Bank, shouting "Obama, you're not welcome here!" and "Obama, get out of Ramallah!", but they were prevented by police from reaching the compound.
Rocket strike condemned
Hours before Obama traveled to Ramallah, militants fired two rockets into southern Israel from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. One rocket hit a house in Sderot, causing minor damage, and another crashed into a field. No one was injured.
The rocket strike was only the second such attack since the end of an eight-day battle between Israel and Hamas militants in November that killed over 170 Palestinians and six Israelis.
Obama denounced the strike, saying it was Hamas' responsibility to stop it.
"We condemn this violation of this important ceasefire that protects both Israelis and Palestinians, a violation that Hamas has a responsibility to prevent," he said of the ceasefire deal which brought an end to November's fighting.
Back to Israel
Earlier on Thursday Obama visited the Dead Sea Scrolls, documents more than 2,000 years old that include some of the earliest texts from the bible, in a move seen as an acknowledgement of the ancient roots of the Jewish state.
After returning from the West Bank, Obama will give a speech to a group of Israeli university students.
The president will then go to Jordan on Friday, where he will hold talks with King Abdullah II.
Newly-appointed Secretary of State John Kerry will also travel with Obama to Jordan but return to Israel on Saturday for further talks.
dr/jlw (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)