Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday, framed multiple conflicts in the Middle East as a battle "between modernity and early primitive medievalism" as he capped capping off a day in Washington, D.C. He assured U.S. President Barack Obama that he remained committed to a two state solution to the Israeli Palestinian conflict as the two leaders sought to mend ties strained by acrimony over Middle East diplomacy and Iran.
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"The core of the conflicts in the Middle East is the battle between modernity and early primitive medievalism. That's the core of the conflicts. The core of the specific conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is the persistent Palestinian refusal to recognize a Jewish state in any boundary. This is why this conflict persisted for 50 years, before there was a state, before there were territories, before there were settlements," Netanyahu told guests at the American Enterprise Institute's annual dinner.
Meeting Obama for the first time since the signing of the Iran nuclear deal, which he strongly opposed, Netanyahu said he backed a vision of "two states for two peoples" but maintained that any Palestinian state must be demilitarized and recognize Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people, a condition Palestinians have rejected.
Patching up relations could help smooth the way for a new 10-year U.S. military aid package, which Obama told Netanyahu he wanted to get a "head start" on negotiating. Israel, Washington's chief Middle East ally, is seeking a record $5 billion a year, according to U.S. congressional sources.
Netanyahu made the case for more funding, saying Israeli provided a steadfast alliance in an otherwise volatile region.
"The United States supports Israel to the tune of $3 billion a year. OK? You spent on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq a trillion and half. So that's five centuries worth of support for Israel. I think Secretary (of Defense Ash) Carter and the president today said that supporting Israel is not just important for Israel, something that we deeply appreciate, but it's also a very solid investment in American security as well. We are an ally that doesn't ask for any American troops. We never have, and we don't intend to. We can defend ourselves. We just want to have the tools," he said.
Obama and Netanyahu, who have a history of testy White House encounters, showed no outward sign of tension, looking cordial and businesslike as they held their first face-to-face talks in 13 months.
Netanyahu's recommitment to the two-state solution, the bedrock of U.S. diplomacy on the conflict for decades, could satisfy the Obama administration's desire that he clarify his position after he appeared to backtrack on his pledge during a hard-fought re-election campaign earlier this year.
U.S.-sponsored peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians collapsed in 2014. The eruption of violence between the two sides last month has made an end to that bloodshed a more immediate priority.