– Israel’s Netanyahu Heads to US for Talks with Obama (VOA News, March 2, 2014):
JERUSALEM — Israel’s leader is on his way to Washington for a summit Monday at the White House. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says two key issues are on the agenda for when he meets with President Barack Obama.
Speaking at the airport in Israel before leaving for Washington, Netanyahu said the leaders will discuss Iran’s nuclear program and peace talks with the Palestinians.
Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, but Israel believes the Islamic Republic is building nuclear weapons that could threaten the existence of the Jewish state. Netanyahu wants the United States to take a tougher stand in nuclear talks between the world powers and Iran.
The prime minister’s spokesman Mark Regev says the goal of the talks must be to dismantle Iran’s nuclear program.
“Now, the ayatollahs in Tehran are not going to suddenly dismantle their military, nuclear capabilities because they’ve had an inspiration of goodwill; they will do so only if there’s pressure on them,” Regev said. “And keeping that international pressure on, we believe is crucial.”
On the Palestinian track, Obama is expected to press Netanyahu to accept a US-proposed framework for the creation of a Palestinian state. The aim is to keep the peace talks going until the end of the year, after an April deadline for a final peace agreement could not be achieved.
The framework tackles the thorniest issues of the conflict including the status of Jerusalem, Palestinian refugees, Jewish settlements, security and final borders. But the gaps are wide.
“The Americans have now changed their focus,” said Herb Keinon, diplomatic correspondent for the Jerusalem Post. “The original intention was to finish the whole thing in nine months. That was not possible, so you had a change of strategy. So I think we are moving toward the framework, but once we even get that framework, does that mean we will be able to move to a final agreement? I am not sure.”
Obama hopes his personal involvement will help bridge the gaps. After hearing from Netanyahu, he will hold a follow-up meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in two weeks at the White House.