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POLITICS: PennAve

Obama pushes Benjamin Netanyahu on 'tough decisions' for Mideast peace

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Politics,White House,Israel,PennAve,Middle East,Meghashyam Mali,Benjamin Netanyahu,Foreign Policy,Palestinians

President Obama on Monday pressed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over Mideast peace talks, saying that both sides had to make “tough decisions” and would need to “compromise” to reach an accord.

“Tough decisions will have to be made,” said the president alongside Netanyahu before their meeting in the Oval Office. "It is still possible to create two states but it is difficult and requires compromise from both sides."

Secretary of State John Kerry has made the Mideast peace process a central focus of his tenure, but the talks have slowed down amid mistrust between Israel and the Palestinians.

Kerry hopes to finalize a “framework” for continued talks before a U.S.-imposed April deadline for the current round of negotiations.

Obama in an interview with Bloomberg published over the weekend warned Netanyahu that time was running out for Israel to reach a deal.

Obama told Bloomberg’s Jeffrey Goldberg that his message to Netanyahu would be “if not now, when? And if not you, Mr. Prime Minister, then who?”

Netanyahu, for his part, has said he will not be pressured by the U.S. and that his sole concern will be Israel’s safety. The Israeli leader says the Palestinians must take tougher steps to prevent violence and assure him that they are accept Israel’s right to exist.

Netanyahu addressed those concerns Monday, saying that "Israel has been doing its part and I regret to say that the Palestinians have not.”

“What we want is peace. Not a piece of paper, but real peace. Mr. President, I think it is about time for the Palestinian people to recognize a state for the Jewish people,” he said. “In the Middle East, the only peace that can endure is the peace we can defend.

“The people of Israel expect me to stay strong for the future of the only Jewish state," said Netanyahu.

Obama sought to soothe those tensions on Monday, reassuring Netanyahu that “we do not have a closer friend than Israel.”

The president added that he wanted to “commend” Netanyahu publicly for his role in continuing the “lengthy, painstaking negotiations” for a Mideast peace deal.

The two leaders have had a rocky relationship, highlighted by disagreements over a slew of issues, including Iran, Syria and responding to the Arab Spring.

Obama said he would discuss those issues with his Israeli counterpart.

“We will speak about Syria and the need for both of us to address the extremism issue inside Syria. We will speak about Lebanon and Jordan, and the opportunity for both countries to work on counterterrorism," the president said. "We have the chance to talk about Egypt, and we will talk about Iran.”

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