WASHINGTON - US President Barack Obama told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at their meeting Monday that he is committed to the two-state solution. Netanyahu on his part told reporters that he fully supports the idea of Palestinian self-governance, but did not use the terminology coveted by Washington that would mean an endorsement of an independent Palestinian state.
"We talked about restarting serious negotiations on issues of Israel and the Palestinians," Obama said at the subsequent joint press conference, adding that it was in the interests of both sides to achieve a two-
"We have seen progress stalled on this front, and I suggested to the prime minister that he has a historic
opportunity to get a serious movement on this issue during his tenure," Obama said. "That means that all the parties involved have to take seriously obligations that they have previously agreed to." The US president stressed that he believes Israel has a clear obligation to stop building settlements in the West Bank.
"I think that there is no reason why we should not seize this opportunity and this moment (for peace)," said Obama.
Netanyahu said only that Israel does not want to govern the Palestinians but to see them govern themselves, choosing not to employ the language of the US 'Road Map' agreements of 2003. The prime minister said he is ready to resume peace talks immediately, but that progess is contingent on the Palestinians' acceptance of Israel's right to existas a Jewish state.
An aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas praised Obama's commitment to the two-state solution. "The statements by Mr. Obama are encouraging while those by Prime Minister Netanyahu are disappointing," Nabil Abu Rdainah said.
Obama also said he saw no reasons to set an artificial deadline for diplomacy with Iran, but that his administration would like to see progress with Tehran by the end of the year.
The US president said he expects a positive response from his diplomatic outreach to Iran on stopping its nuclear program by the end of the year. He said the United States wanted to bring Iran into the world community but declared "we're not going to have talks forever." Obama said he was not closing off a "range of steps" against Iran, including sanctions, if it continues its nuclear program.
Netanyahu, Obama meeting in White House (Photo: GPO)
"Iran is a country of extraordinary history and extraordinary potential and we want them to be a full-fledged member of the international community, and be in a position to provide opportunity and prosperity for their people but that the way to achieve those goals is not through the pursuit of a nuclear weapon," Obama said.
Netanyahu warned that a nuclear Iran would pose a threat to the entire world, not just Israel. "It could give the nuclear umbrella to terrorists or worse, it could actually give nuclear weapons to terrorists I believe it would put all of us in great peril," he said.
Netanyahu left the official state guest residence, the Blair House, at 2:30 pm (GMT) and made the short journey to the White House. President Obama exited to Oval Office to greet him. A handful of protestors gathered outside the White House to speak out against the two-state solution.
The two were intended to meet in private for an hour and then be joined by their advisors, though the tête-à-tête was extended by half an hour. Afterwards Netanyahu was joined by top aide Ron Dermer and his National Security Advisor, Uzi Arad. Obama was joined by the US National Security Advisor, James Jones.
Yitzhak Benhorin contributed to this report