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Netanyahu Heads to Washington for White House Summit

  • David Dyar

Israel's leader is heading to Washington for a meeting Tuesday with President Obama.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hopes to mend fences with Mr. Obama when they meet at the White House. Relations between Israel and the United States have plummeted over the issue of Jewish construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The Palestinians claim these territories for a future state, and the United States sees the settlements as an obstacle to peace.

"Friends can disagree, but the strong relationship between Israel and the United States is there and it is rock solid," said Israeli spokesman Mark Regev.

Peace talks with the Palestinians will be high on the agenda. After two months of indirect talks mediated by U.S. envoy George Mitchell, Mr. Netanyahu wants to move on to face-to-face negotiations. "A main part of my conversations with President Obama in Washington will be focused on how to start direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians right away," the Israeli leader said.

Israel believes direct talks are the only way to resolve the thorniest issues of the conflict, such as the status of Jerusalem, Palestinian refugees and the final borders of a Palestinian state. But the Palestinians say there has not been enough progress to warrant direct negotiations.

Another key issue at the White House meeting will be Iran's nuclear program, which Israel sees as an existential threat. Israel and the United States agree Iran must not be allowed to pursue nuclear weapons.