Israel's new prime minister is in Washington for talks with U.S.
officials on Israeli-Arab peace prospects and Iran's nuclear program.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrived in Washington early
Sunday. He has said future Israeli-Palestinian peace talks should focus
on economic and security matters rather than Palestinian statehood, a
concept he has not endorsed.
U.S. President Barack Obama has said a two-state solution to the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict is central to his goal of a comprehensive
Middle East peace.
An Israeli spokesman played down the differences, saying Mr. Netanyahu is confident that the two allies can find common ground.
The Israeli prime minister's top priority is stopping what he sees as
Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons and support of anti-Israel militant
groups Hamas and Hezbollah.
In an interview with U.S. magazine Newsweek (published on its Web site Sunday),
President Obama says he is reaching out to Iran to give it a chance to
align itself with international norms. But, he also says he does not
rule out any options if the process fails.
Mr. Obama says he understands "very clearly" why Israel considers Iran
to be a threat to its existence, given statements made by Iranian
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The Iranian leader has frequently
predicted Israel's demise.
Israeli has expressed concern over Mr. Obama's plans to negotiate with
Iran, saying Teheran would use those talks to buy time while moving
closer to nuclear capability.
Iran says its nuclear program is peaceful. Israel also is widely thought to be the only nuclear-armed state in the region.
U.S. officials have said Israel should make progress in peace with the
Palestinians to encourage moderate Arab states to join a united front
against a nuclear-armed Iran.
Mr. Obama and Mr. Netanyahu are due to have talks at the White House
Monday in what will be their first meeting since both took office
earlier this year. Mr. Netanyahu also plans to meet lawmakers Tuesday
in Congress, where support for Israel is traditionally strong.
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said Saturday he hopes Mr.
Netanyahu, in his words, "heeds the call" of the U.S. president and
other world leaders who support a two-state solution.