WASHINGTON - Netanyahu convinces Obama Israel is serious: Israel "wants peace" and is serious about its intentions to move forward to direct negotiations with the Palestinians, President Barack Obama said after meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Tuesday.
Obama expressed his hope to see Israel and the Palestinians embarking on direct talks before September, when the temporary construction freeze adopted by Israel in Judea and Samaria is slated to end.
He added that the meeting "marked just one more chapter in the extraordinary friendship between our two countries".
Netanyahu reiterated that Israel is "committed" to peace with the Palestinians and said any reports of the demise of the US-Israeli relationship are "flat wrong."
Obama, Netanyahu at White House (Photo: AP)
The US president said America's bond with Israel is unbreakable, and that the US will never ask Israel to do anything that undermines its security.
Obama said he will maintain pressure on Iran, while welcoming PM Netanyahu's relief efforts in respect to the Gaza Strip blockade. Obama said he sees "real progress" in Gaza dn praised Israel's decision to allow more goods into the Strip.
The one-on-one meeting between the two leaders was scheduled to last an hour but went on for an hour and 40 minutes. Meanwhile, PM Netanyahu invited Obama to visit Israel.
Bibi wants direct talks soon
Prime Minister Netanyahu arrived in the White House earlier Tuesday for his fifth meeting with President Obama. A senior source in Jerusalem characterized the meeting as "more important than ever" in respect to the Palestinian front, adding that the White House session would determine the future of the regional peace process.
Netanyahu headed to the White House from the Blair House, the official US guest house. At the beginning of the meeting, the PM told Obama that the distance between Jerusalem in Ramallah is merely 15 minutes by car, stressing that progress on the peace front requires Israel and the Palestinians to advance to direct talks soon.
The issue of shifting from indirect proximity to direct negotiations was expected to be the main issue in Tuesday's meeting.
Before meeting with Obama, Netanyahu met with his advisors and with Israeli Ambassador to the US Michael Oren for a final brainstorming session ahead of the summit. In addition to the peace process, the two leaders were also expected to discuss Iran's nuclear program and Israel's modified policy on the Gaza blockade.
Netanyahu was scheduled to meet with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton later Tuesday. Meanwhile, the wives of the two leaders, Michelle Obama and Sara Netanyahu, were also scheduled to meet at the White House.
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