Middle East/North Africa

Obama places stones from MLK memorial at key Israeli site

President Obama on Friday placed a stone from the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial at the tomb of assassinated Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin on his final day in Israel.

Obama also visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial complex and the gravesite of Zionism founder Theodor Herzl, where he also laid a stone, as he wrapped up his three-day trip to Israel, the first of his presidency.

{mosads}“Nothing equals the wrenching power of this sacred place, where the totality of the Shoah is told,” Obama said during the visit to Yad Vashem. “We could come here a thousand times, and each time our hearts would break.”

The visit to the Herzl grave was the first thing Israelis requested that Obama do as the trip was being planned, according to a White House pool report. The site has enormous importance to Israel in that it underlines their claims to land in the Middle East separate from the Holocaust.

Obama was accompanied during the stops at all three sites by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres.

A White House pool report said Obama was flanked by Netanyahu and Peres at the Herzl memorial. He stood with his hands clasped before the granite slab marked “Herzl” before walking away with the two men.

Obama walked through the Children’s Memorial, an underground cavern where candles burn in reflection to the 1.5 million Jewish children killed in the Holocaust.

Obama will next head to Jordan before traveling back to Washington on Friday night.

On Thursday, the president pleaded with Israelis and Palestinians to resume talks on peace talks and a two-state solution. He said the U.S. remains “deeply committed” to such a resolution and argued Palestinians “deserve an end to occupation and the daily indignities that come with it.”

But Obama also said Palestinians should drop their demand that Israel cease settlements on lands they consider part of Israel.

Obama and Netanyahu also discussed the crisis in Syria and how to deal with Iran during their meeting on Wednesday.

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