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Obama Likely To Press Netanyahu on Two-State Solution


New Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will sit down Monday at the White House for his first visit as prime minister with U.S. President Barack Obama. The Obama administration is hoping that the hawkish Israeli leader will also publicly endorse Palestinian statehood for the first time.

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has made clear in the past that he does not believe the Palestinians are ready to rule themselves and has not come out publicly in favor of what is referred to as a "two-state solution", with Israel and Palestine co-existing peacefully as neighboring states. But that position clashes with longstanding U.S. policy that supports Palestinian statehood.

Speaking in Jordan Sunday, Israeli President Shimon Peres said Mr. Netanyahu would abide by agreements signed by his predecessors.

"He said he will abide by the resolutions of the previous governments," said Shimon Peres. "And in those resolutions you have the road map, the road map is based on a two-state solution, it is divided in two parts, you don't start right away with full answers to all the questions."

But Mr. Peres also made clear that progress depends on an end to attacks by Hamas militants and greater Palestinian efforts to ensure Israel's security.

Just before Mr. Netanyahu left for Washington Sunday, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said he thought peace with the Palestinians could be achieved within three years.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat said he believes President Obama has a clear choice.

"He can continue treating Israel in the cost free road as a country above the laws of man and apply double standards," said Saeb Erakat. "Or he can choose to have Israel comply, accepting the two-state solution agreement signed and stopping settlement activities, including natural growth. If he chooses to have Israel comply, I think he can open a new chapter in this region's history. If he chooses to continue with the cost free road, treating Israel as a country above the laws of man, I think we are doomed."

With President Obama focused on reviving Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, and Prime Minister Netanyahu more likely to focus on the Iranian nuclear issue, some analysts have wondered whether there is likely to be an open clash between the two leaders.

Foreign Affairs Editor Jim Hoge says he believes a public clash is unlikely.

"I think that if this was the first Netanyahu government, way back, that there might have been a real clash and there might have been a follow-up of charges, if not directly from either of them, from parties to them," said Jim Hoge. "But the Netanyahu this time around I think is more disciplined, probably his pragmatic streak is closer to the surface."

Elliot Abrams, who served as deputy national security adviser in the Bush administration, agrees.

"I don't think that at this point it does much good for either man, certainly it doesn't for Netanyahu, to appear to be in a clash," said Elliot Abrams. "I think the question that emerges really is Day 2 and Day 3 what are the kind of leaks you get."

Abrams said the two leaders' staff members might reveal what kind of first impression they made on each other by leaking details of the meeting to the press.

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