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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington as the two sides sought the resumption of negotiations with Palestinians.

A brief statement released by the White House late Monday said the two leaders privately discussed a number of issues including security cooperation, Iran and how to move forward on Middle East peace.  Israeli officials said they will have no comment until Tuesday.

Earlier Monday, Mr. Netanyahu told the annual meeting of the Jewish Federations of North America that talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas should begin immediately.  He said it is his goal to achieve a permanent peace treaty between Israel and the Palestinians.

But efforts have been complicated by Mr. Abbas, who said last week he would not stand in elections next January, citing the impasse with Israel.  On Monday, the chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, reiterated warnings that Israel and the U.S. need to take serious steps if they still want to negotiate with the Palestinian Authority.  

Palestinians have demanded a halt in construction of Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank as a precondition for returning to talks.  U.S.-Israeli relations have been strained since Mr. Netanyahu rejected President Obama's demand to stop settlement construction.

Mr. Netanyahu defended his country's position in his public remarks Monday, saying no Israeli government has been as willing as his to restrain settlement activities in order to get Palestinians back to the negotiating table.

President Obama's chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, will address the Jewish Federations meeting on Tuesday in place of Mr. Obama.  The president canceled his speech to travel to a memorial service in the southern U.S. state of Texas for the victims of last week's deadly shooting at the Fort Hood military base.