Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrived late Sunday in Washington, where he was scheduled to meet U.S. President Barack Obama and address the AIPAC conference.
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Upon landing, Netanyahu told reporters that he was committed to negotiations for a final settlement and was waiting to see proof that the Palestinians were as well.
"It takes at least three to dance the Middle East tango," Netanyahu said. "Two are already there – Israel and the U.S. Now we need to see if the Palestinians are also on board. In any case, in order to reach an agreement, we need to stand firm on our crucial interests. I've proven that I'm doing that, against all pressure and all uncertainty, and I'll continue to do that here as well."
In an interview with Bloomberg's Jeffrey Goldberg published Sunday, Obama sent an unusually blunt message to Netanyahu, telling him that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was the most moderate leader Israel would encounter in the foreseeable future and that time was running out for a peace deal. Obama, according to Goldberg, gave the impression that Netanyahu was the one who had to be flexible in order to advance the peace talks.
"There comes a point where you can't manage this anymore, and then you start having to make very difficult choices," Obama said. "Do you resign yourself to what amounts to a permanent occupation of the West Bank? Is that the character of Israel as a state for a long period of time? Do you perpetuate, over the course of a decade or two decades, more and more restrictive policies in terms of Palestinian movement? Do you place restrictions on Arab Israelis in ways that run counter to Israel's traditions?"
Netanyahu is scheduled to meet with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday morning prior to his meeting with the president and with Vice President Joe Biden following that. On Tuesday morning he is due to address the annual convention of the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC, after which he will fly to Los Angeles.
Before taking off for Washington, Netanyahu tried to relay a harsh message on his upcoming meeting with the U.S. president: "I'll stand firm on the State of Israel's crucial interests, first and foremost the security of the citizens of Israel," he said. "In recent years, the State of Israel has been subject to pressures, but we have pushed through the storm and the regional tempest, and that's how it will continue to be."
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