(IsraelNN.com) Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and United States President Barack Obama sat down Monday for a lengthy meeting focusing on pressing international issues. The meeting continued into the afternoon, lasting more than an hour beyond what was planned.
The two then made a joint statement to the media.
Analysts have suggested that the two leaders approached the meeting with different goals. While Netanyahu hoped to gain Obama's support for strong action on Iran, Obama planned to focus on efforts to create a Palestinian Authority state in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem.
Following the meeting, neither leader showed signs of having changed his position.
Netanyahu refrained from spelling out support for a PA-led Arab state. Instead, he reiterated previous statements in support of “Palestinian self-rule,” but made no mention of an independent state.
"We don't want to govern the Palestinians. We want them to govern themselves,” Netanyahu said. He expressed willingness to negotiate with the PA, but continued to demand that the PA recognize Israel as a Jewish state.
Obama said he and Netanyahu had talked about “restarting serious negotiations on issues of Israel and the Palestinians.” The president called for a “two-state solution,” as he has done in the past.
Obama also declared at the press conference that Israel is committed to refrain from building new homes for Jews in Judea and Samaria, according to the Road Map proposal of 2003.
While Obama said the U.S. is considering a “range of steps” against Iran if Iran continues with its nuclear program, he opposed the imposition of a deadline on attempts to dialog with the hard-line Islamic republic. However, he said the U.S. hopes to see progress by the end of 2009.
Members of Netanyahu's cabinet have expressed concern that Iran will take advantage of America's willingness to conduct a dialog, and use the time thus gained in order to cross the nuclear threshold. However, Netanyahu has not expressed opposition to the American position.
Aides to Netanyahu said prior to the meeting that the Prime Minister was encouraged by statements Obama made Sunday in which the president said he would keep “all options on the table” regarding Iran. Obama also told Newsweek that when it comes to Iran, “I don't think it's my place to determine for the Israelis what their security needs are.”
Obama has placed Israel-PA negotiations high on his list of diplomatic priorities, and has expressed hope that Israeli leaders will support the creation of a PA state. Netanyahu says he is willing to negotiate with the PA, but would like to see the PA become more stable in terms of economy and security before it is given control of more territories.
by Maayana Miskin
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