Visiting US Vice President Joe Biden began his round of talks with senior Israeli officials on Tuesday at the President's Residence in Jerusalem.
Biden told President Shimon Peres that
the Iranian regime is isolated more than ever before, both domestically and internationally, adding that the Iranian people are imposing what he called moral sanctions against it.
The Israeli president said imposing moral sanctions on Iran, including its expulsion from the UN, were no less important than taking economic measures. According to Peres, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad cannot
be a UN member and at the same time call for Israel's annihilation and hang people in the streets.
The president, who said Ahmadinejad was trying to delegitimize Israel and the US, said the West should surround Iran with anti-missile batteries.
The American vice president, who is the senior-most Obama administration official to visit Israel, said he hoped the Israel-Palestinian talks would help the sides overcome the mistrust between them, adding that he believed the points of agreement outnumber the disagreements.
Biden also signed Peres' guest book. He wrote that the bond between the US and Israel is unshakable, adding that only a joint effort can lead to lasting peace.
The US vice president later met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Biden shook hands with the Israeli PM and signed his guest book as well. He wrote that Israel is lucky to have Netanyahu, and the US is lucky to have Israel as a friend. The two are slated to meet one-on-one with their entourages. After the meeting, they will issue a joint statement.
Unshakable bond. Biden (L) and Peres (Photo: Moshe Milner, GPO)
Later in the day Biden is scheduled to meet with Opposition leader Tzipi Livni and visit the Mount Herzl cemetery in Jerusalem, where lay a wreath on the tombstones of slain prime minister Yitzhak Rabin and Theodor Herzl, the father of modern political Zionism.
US Mideast envoy George Mitchell announced
the launching of indirect talks on Monday. Netanyahu hopes
the talks under Washington's mediation will lead to direct negotiations in a few weeks' time.
However, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas wants to discuss the core issues of the conflict, including Jerusalem, borders and the Palestinian refugees in the framework of the indirect talks.
A Palestinian official told Ynet that the US' willingness to pressure Israel into significantly altering its policy is limited.
On Wednesday Biden is scheduled to meet with Mideast Quartet envoy Tony Blair, and then head to Ramallah for talks with Abbas and Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.
On Thursday the vice president will speak at Tel Aviv University.