U.S. President Barack
Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have agreed on the need to
resume Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, and to deal with the threat posed by
Iran's nuclear program. The two leaders had their first meeting Monday at the
White House since they both took office earlier this year.
Before Monday's meeting, analysts were speculating on whether
there might be a public clash between President Obama and Prime Minister
Netanyahu over their different policy priorities. Mr. Obama was focused on
resuming peace talks with the Palestinians, and Mr. Netanyahu was focused on
Iran's nuclear threat. But speaking to the press after their two-hour meeting,
both leaders made a point of recognizing how crucial both issues are to peace
and security. Mr. Netanyahu said he is ready to resume peace talks with the
"And I want to start peace
negotiations with the Palestinians immediately," said Benjamin Netanyahu. "I
would like to broaden the circle of peace to include others in the Arab world.
If we could, Mr. President, it is a distant vision but one that we shouldn't let
go, maybe peace with the entire Arab world."
The Israeli Prime Minister made clear, however,
that any agreement depends on the Palestinians accepting Israel's right to exist
as a Jewish state, and Israel's right to defend itself. And he stopped short of
endorsing Palestinian statehood, saying only that Israel does not want to govern
For his part, President Obama
said he expects a positive response from his diplomatic outreach to Iran on
stopping its nuclear program. He said the United States wanted to bring Iran
into the world community, but also reassured Israel that he is not prepared to
have talks forever."
"But as I said by the end of
the year I think we should have some sense at to whether or not these
discussions are starting to yield significant benefits, whether we are starting
to see serious movement on the part of the Iranians," said President
Prime Minister Netanyahu said
the common threat posed by Iran's nuclear program to the entire region could
even lead to opportunities for Israel to work with its Arab
"And in my 59 years, in the
life of the Jewish state, there has never been a time when Arabs and Israelis
see a common threat the way we see it today, and also see the need to join
together in working towards peace while simultaneously defending ourselves
against this common threat," he said.
President Obama stressed that his administration is committed
to reviving the peace process.
"We are going to be engaged,"
said Mr. Obama. "The United States is going to roll up our sleeves, we want to
be a strong partner in this process. I have great confidence in Prime Minister
Netanyahu's political skills, but also his historical vision."
Next week, Mr. Obama will
continue his push for Middle East diplomacy, hosting Egyptian President Hosni
Mubarak and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at the White