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November 9, 2015 1:33 pm

At White House, Netanyahu and Obama Seek to Overcome Iran Differences

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Barack Obama met at the White House on Monday. Photo: Prime Minister's Office.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Barack Obama met at the White House on Monday. Photo: Prime Minister’s Office. – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Barack Obama met at the White House on Monday morning for the first time in over a year, in a bid to put aside past differences over Iran’s nuclear program and advance peace in the region.

“This is going to be an opportunity for the prime minister and myself to engage in a wide-ranging discussion on some of the most pressing security issues that both our countries face,” Obama said before the meeting. “It’s no secret that the security environment in the Middle East has deteriorated in many areas, and as I’ve said repeatedly, the security of Israel is one of my top foreign policy priorities. And that’s expressed itself not only in words, but in deeds.”

According to the White House, the two leaders will tackle regional security issues, including the implementation of the Iran nuclear deal, how to prevent Iran for obtaining a nuclear weapons and countering Tehran’s destabilizing activities. They will also discuss Israel’s relations with the Palestinians, the situation in the Gaza Strip and West Bank and need for progress towards a two-state solution.

Another one of the top goals for Netanyahu is securing a new military aid package for Israel. The current deal between Israel and the U.S., which provides $3 billion annually to Israel, is set to expire in 2017. The two sides had been negotiating a new deal last summer, but negotiations were halted following the Iran nuclear deal in July. Recent reports indicate that Israel is seeking as much as $5 billion annually in a new defense deal.

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The meeting between Netanyahu and Obama at the White House is the first time the two leaders have met face-to-face in over a year. Netanyahu, who was reelected last March, was snubbed by Obama during a visit to the U.S. in early March to address a joint session of Congress over the dangers of the Iranian nuclear deal. The White House cited the impending election as the official reason, however, it was clear the White House was upset at Netanyahu’s address, which was planned without first consulting President Obama.

During the meeting, Obama referenced the differences over the Iran nuclear deal with Netanyahu, but said that both leaders were committed to preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Netanyahu thanked Obama for his commitment to Israel’s security.

“We’re with each other in more ways than one,” Netanyahu said. “I think it’s rooted in shared values, and it’s buttressed by shared interests. And it’s driven forward by a sense of a shared destiny.”

Obama also condemned the recent wave of terrorism in Israel, saying that it is “my strong belief that Israel has not just the right, but the obligation to protect itself.”

Netanyahu assured Obama that he remains committed to see “two states for two peoples, a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes a Jewish state.”

Netanyahu and Obama were joined in the Oval Office by Vice President Joe Biden, national security adviser Susan Rice and respective ambassadors Ron Dermer and Dan Shapiro.

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