Obama, Netanyahu Discuss Middle East Peace

Posted August 10th, 2011 at 10:05 pm (UTC-5)
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U.S. President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have consulted by telephone on regional issues and efforts to achieve Middle East peace, as the two countries try to revive peace talks with the Palestinians.

The White House said Wednesday the two leaders agreed to work closely together on common security concerns. It also said Mr. Netanyahu expressed appreciation for U.S. support for Israel's security, in particular the Iron Dome short-range rocket and missile defense system.

The two spoke on the same day a delegation of U.S. Democratic Party lawmakers met in Israel with Mr. Netanyahu and Israeli President Shimon Peres.

A member of the delegation, senior Congressman Steny Hoyer , criticized the Palestinians' plan to ask the United Nations next month to recognize their statehood. He urged the Israelis and Palestinians to return to the negotiating table without preconditions.

Hoyer also said the current economic struggles in the United States will not have an effect on U.S. financial aid to Israel.

Western-sponsored peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians broke off after intense efforts to renew them last September, in a dispute over Jewish settlement building in the West Bank.

Palestinians have demanded that Israel stop all settlement construction before peace talks resume. Mr. Netanyahu wants negotiations with no preconditions in which issues like borders and settlements would be discussed.

Earlier this month, sources in Mr. Netanyahu's office said he agreed to negotiate the borders of a future Palestinian state using the 1967 cease-fire line that delineates the West Bank as a starting point for talks. The sources said that in exchange for the concession, Palestinians must recognize Israel as a Jewish state and retract the unilateral application for statehood they plan to submit to the U.N. next month.

In May, Mr. Obama proposed negotiations based on the pre-1967 borders, plus agreed swaps of territory between Israel and a Palestinian state.