U.S. Vice President Joe Biden is in Israel and has urged Israeli leaders to take bold steps for peace. The Vice President is on a five-day visit to the Middle East to push peace efforts, and offer reassurances to Israel.
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Israel just after Palestinians and Israelis agreed to hold indirect talks for four months, ending a 14-month breakdown of negotiations.
Biden, the highest-ranking member of the Obama administration to visit Israel, called the resumption of talks a moment of real opportunity for peace. Speaking to reporters after meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday, the Vice President said the U.S.-mediated talks will be a vehicle to allay the mistrust between Israelis and Palestinians that has built up over several years.
"The goal is obviously to resolve the final status issues and to achieve a two-state solution with Israel and Palestine living side-by-side in peace and security," Biden said. "And historic peace is going to require both parties to make some historically bold commitments."
Israel's first priority for this visit is to ensure continued U.S. support in efforts to contain Iran and its nuclear ambitions.
Prime Minister Netanyahu praised Washington's moves to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons that Tehran could one day use against the Jewish State.
"I very much appreciate the efforts of President Obama and the American government to lead the international community to place tough sanctions on Iran," Mr. Netanyahu said. "The stronger those sanctions are, the more likely it will be that the Iranian regime will have to choose between advancing its nuclear program and advancing the future of its own permanence."
Many Israelis believe President Barack Obama is less sympathetic to Israel than his predecessors, as evidenced by his administration's strong demands for Israel to cease the expansion of its settlements in the occupied West Bank.
Biden reassured Mr. Netanyahu, who is known to his friends as "Bibi," that bonds remain strong.
"A cornerstone of the relationship is our absolute total, unvarnished commitment to Israel's security," Biden said. "Bibi, you heard me say before: progress occurs in the Middle East when everyone knows there is simply no space between the United States and Israel. There is no space between the United States and Israel when it comes to Israel's security."
The U.S. vice president is due to travel to the West Bank town of Ramallah to meet Wednesday with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.