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Obama, Netanyahu discuss Iran and Israeli-Palestinian peace process

WJC, At a meeting at the White House on Wednesday, Israel's leader Benjamin Netanyahu urged US President Barack Obama to ensure that any final nuclear deal with Iran does not leave the Islamic republic at the “threshold" of being able to develop nuclear weapons.

Obama urged the Israeli prime minister to help find ways to prevent Palestinian civilian casualties like those inflicted in the recent Gaza war between Israel and Hamas militants, according to the 'Reuters' news agency.

Netanyahu's visit was overshadowed by word of Israel's approval of the planned construction of more than 2,600 settler homes in the overwhelmingly Arab neighborhood of Silwan, in eastern Jerusalem. The White House said the matter had come up in the two leaders' closed-door talks and warned that it would draw international condemnation, "poison the atmosphere" with the Palestinians as well as Arab governments and call into question Israel's commitment to peace. Netanyahu said in an 'ABC News' interview that the issue had not been raised.

Underscoring Israeli misgivings at a critical juncture in nuclear talks between Iran and world powers, Netanyahu made clear that he remains at odds with Obama about the course of international negotiations with Iran. "As you know, Mr. President, Iran seeks a deal that would lift the tough sanctions that you worked so hard to put in place and leave it as a threshold nuclear power," Netanyahu said. "I firmly hope under your leadership that would not happen." Netanyahu wants Tehran completely stripped of its nuclear capability while Obama has suggested he is open to Iran continuing to enrich uranium on a limited basis for civilian purposes.

While Netanyahu put the emphasis on Iran, Obama was quick to focus on the bloody 55-day Gaza conflict in the summer. This followed the collapse of US-sponsored peace talks between Israel and Palestinians in April. “We have to find ways to change the status quo so that both Israeli citizens are safe in their own homes and school children in their schools from the possibility of rocket fire, but also that we don’t have the tragedy of Palestinian children being killed as well,” Obama said. The Obama administration had backed Israel’s right to defend itself against Hamas cross-border rocket fire, but also voiced criticism of Israeli military tactics as Palestinian civilian casualties mounted.

Without going into detail, Netanyahu said he remained “committed to a vision of peace for two states for two peoples." He suggested to “think outside the box” and recruit moderate Arab states to advance peace in the region, though he offered no specifics.

Within hours of the talks, both the White House and State Department blasted Israel's housing decision, reported by the anti-settlement watchdog Peace Now, to move forward on the settler housing project slated for construction since 2012.
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