WASHINGTON - President Shimon Peres met with US President Barack Obama on Tuesday and discussed with him recent developments in the Middle East, stalled peace talks with the Palestinians, the Iranian nuclear program and spy Jonathan Pollard. The two leaders later had lunch together.
Peres said after the meeting that Obama was very eager to renew a real peace process, not a show followed by a deadlock.
"With the winds of change blowing through the Arab world, it's more urgent than ever that we try to seize the opportunity to create a peaceful solution between Palestinians and Israelis," Obama later told reporters.
He warned that anti-democratic extremists could exploit the Israeli-Palestinian conflict unless it is resolved.
The two presidents met in the White House for 45 minutes and then had lunch together.
During their meeting Peres asked Obama to pardon convicted spy Jonathan Pollard following a letter sent by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He later told reporters that the president listened but that he didn't expect him to give an answer on the spot. The two also discussed the issue of Gilad Shalit.
Peres invited Obama to take part in the Facing Tomorrow Presidential Conference to be held in Jerusalem in June. It was stated that Obama replied he will check his schedule but that the tone of his words was positive.
During the meeting, the president asked for F-35 jets as well as US aid in purchasing Iron Dome batteries and maintaining Israel's competitive edge.
Peres later said that Obama told him he was against the attempts to de-legitimize the State of Israel and that he is in favor of reigniting direct talks with the Palestinians. Obama stressed he was willing to embark on a peace process as long as it wouldn't be a one-off occasion.
Peres told reporters his raised the Iranian issue during his meeting with Obama. He said Iran symbolizes the corruption of universal moral values. Peres noted that the US president reiterated his commitment to Israel's security which is at the top of the American administration's priorities.
Peres and Obama (Photo: EPA)
Obama told reporters the two had an extensive discussion about unrest sweeping the Middle East and share a belief that it represents both a challenge and an opportunity. Obama said it's "more urgent than ever that we try to seize the opportunity to create a peaceful solution" between the Palestinians and Israelis.
It was reported that the meeting was held in a positive atmosphere and Peres apparently commented on Obama's youthful appearance.
In the three days preceding his departure to the US, Peres has been briefed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
On Monday, Peres met with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The two discussed the recent Mideast changes and attempted to find new ways to renew the peace process and strengthen ties between Jerusalem and Washington.
Clinton said this is a time of great challenges and many opportunities. She mentioned she looks forward to important conversations with Peres in which the two will discuss the strong friendship between the two countries. Clinton complimented Peres, saying that at age 88 he is one of the younger people she knows.
Obama and Peres. 'Positive atmosphere' (Photo: Mark Neiman, GPO)
New construction plan
Meanwhile, a new construction project could threaten Jerusalem-Washington relations. The local planning and construction committee which operates under the authority of the Interior Ministry has approved the construction of a national park on the land between the Hebrew University and E1 territory in a way that will create full territorial continuity between Jerusalem and Ma'ale Adumim.
This after the Jerusalem construction commission approved Monday the construction of 943 housing units in the Gilo neighborhood.
Unlike the Gilo expansion, which is at the center of the Israeli consensus and is set to remain under Israeli control in any future peace deal, the "National Park – Mount Scopus slopes" project is set to be built on what is considered mainly Palestinian land and constitutes a buffer between the al-Issawiya and al-Tur neighborhoods.
The plan, which extends over 800 dunams (198 acres) was submitted by the Israel Nature and Parks Authority despite opposition from the Arab neighborhoods that claim that this is the expropriation of the last pieces of land left in their control.
AFP and AP contributed to this report
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