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Obama: Tough Choices Ahead for Mideast Peace

U.S. President Barack Obama says tough decisions must be made as the deadline nears for completing a framework for peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

Mr. Obama, speaking alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House Monday, said it is still possible to create two states - one for Israelis and one for Palestinians - but that negotiations will be difficult and require "compromise on all sides."

Mr. Netanyahu said the Israeli people expect him to remain strong and hold out for the best possible deal. He said Israel is doing its part to pursue peace, but the Palestinians are not.

The Israeli prime minister also said that preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon is the "greatest challenge" for the U.S. and Israel.



In an interview published Sunday by Bloomberg View, Mr. Obama warned "time is running out" for Israel to reach a final accord with the Palestinians.

He said if the peace talks fail, the U.S. would be unable to defend Israel from a backlash on the international stage, including a growing threat of boycotts and diplomatic isolation.

Mr. Netanyahu told an Israeli television network he wants to reach an agreement, but "it has to be a good deal." The Israeli leader said, "I will not give in to pressure."

In meetings at the White House, Mr. Obama and Mr. Netanyahu are to discuss the ongoing efforts by Western nations, Russia and China to reach a long-term agreement to curb Iran's nuclear development program.

The Israeli leader is deeply suspicious of the negotiations with Iran, contending Tehran is seeking to build a nuclear weapon that could threaten the existence of the Jewish state. Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry launched a new round of Mideast peace talks last July, with the goal of reaching a final agreement by next month. But the Obama administration revised the goal as the talks stalled.

Among the issues to be resolved are the status of Jerusalem, Jewish settlements in the West Bank, Palestinian refugees and final borders. The Palestinians are demanding that Israel base the final borders on lines drawn before Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem during military conflicts in 1967.

Mr. Obama will hold a follow up meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on March 17 at the White House.

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