By Aru Pande, VOA
cartoon by Carlos Latuff
WHITE HOUSE- Months after U.S.-Israeli relations appeared to hit a new low, President Barack Obama will welcome Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the White House next week for talks centered on what has long been the key issue of contention - the Iran nuclear agreement. VOA Correspondent Aru Pande has more on the meeting that also takes place amid heightened tensions between Israelis and Palestinians.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could not have been more blunt in his criticism of U.S-led negotiations over the Iran nuclear agreement as he stood before Congress in March. Some Democratic lawmakers called it an affront to President Obama.
Less than a month after the deal was reached, Obama offered a counter to Netanyahu's concerns.
“A nuclear-armed Iran is far more dangerous to Israel, to America, and to the world than an Iran that benefits from sanctions relief,” said Obama.
It is against this backdrop that the two leaders will meet, for the 13th time, on November 9 for talks in the Oval Office.
Press Secretary Josh Earnest said the meeting will focus not only on Iran, but the fight against the Islamic State and further enhancing Israel’s security.
“Prime Minister Netanyahu has previously described the level of security cooperation that’s been offered by the Obama administration as ‘unprecedented.’ That, I think, is an indication of the President’s personal commitment to the security of Israel and to the unshakeable bond between our two countries,” said Earnest.
Tensions and violence are escalating amid a series of Palestinian knife attacks on Israelis and Palestinian deaths at the hands of Israeli security forces.
At an October news conference, Obama condemned the violence and urged both sides to tamp down the rhetoric -- while acknowledging U.S. efforts toward a two-state solution have stalled.
“I think it is going to be up to the parties, and we stand ready to assist, to see if they can restart a more constructive relationship. But in the meantime, right now, everybody needs to focus on making sure that innocent people are not being killed,” said Obama.
John Hopkins University's Daniel Serwer said there is little Obama can do, besides pressuring Netanyahu on Jewish settlements.
“They continue to build settlements, they continue to expand the Israeli presence on the West Bank. And that is certainly unacceptable from the American and Palestinian perspective, but that does not mean it will not continue,” said Serwer.
Obama, like many American presidents before him, may make one last push towards peace before leaving office, but analysts say without political will from both Israeli and Palestinian leaders, the effort will likely be futile.
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