Obama, Netanyahu Talk Middle East Peace

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a point to demonstrate a warm relationship and pledged concrete steps to revive Mideast peace efforts with Palestinians when they met Tuesday in Washington.

The president praised Israel's decision to ease its 3-year blockade of the Gaza Strip. Netanyahu said Israel is "committed" to peace and would be willing to reawaken face-to-face peace talks with the Palestinians.

The meeting came five weeks after Israel's deadly raid on a flotilla that was trying to break the Israeli blockade of the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. That raid brought international outrage and tested U.S. support for Israel's security steps.

But the two world leaders showed no signs of tension. Netanyahu emerged from talks with promises from Obama that the U.S. is both committed to Israel's security and a believer that the prime minister wants peace with Palestinians. For his part, Netanyahu showed the urgency that Obama wants in boosting peace efforts, though he didn't say in public just what he might have planned.

"The bond between the United States and Israel is unbreakable," Obama said near the start of his comments in the Oval Office, with Netanyahu at his side.

Obama prodded for direct peace talks to resume between Israelis and Palestinians after weeks in which the U.S. has served as an indirect mediator. "I believe that Prime Minister Netanyahu wants peace. I think he's willing to take risks for peace," he said. Netanyahu said much the same about himself but unveiled no ideas on ending the standoff.

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said Netanyahu must choose between settlements and peace. "We want to resume direct negotiations, but the problem is that the land that is supposed to be a Palestinian state is being eaten up by settlements," he told The Associated Press.

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