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Obama, Netanyahu seek common ground following Iran deal

The two leaders sought to reaffirm strong US-Israeli ties at the White House. Relations between the US and Israel have deteriorated over the Iran deal and the stalled Middle East peace process.

Following a period of over a year since their last meeting, and after four months of complete detachment in which they had not even spoken over the phone, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Barack Obama met on Monday at the White House, shaking hands in front of the cameras.

Netanyahu reaffirmed his commitment to the two state solution: "I want to make it clear we haven't given up on our hope for peace," he said, telling the US President that "our friendship is strong and our alliance is strong with shared interests and values."

The Israeli leader has stressed, however, that Palestinians in turn must recognize Israel as a Jewish state, a condition he claims they have repeatedly rejected.

However, White House officials said ahead of the talks that the administration no longer believed a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would be possible before the end of Obama's term in office in January 2017.

Obama has told Netanyahu that it is "no secret" that the security in Middle East has deteriorated, adding that Israeli security was his "top priority. "

"We want to make sure Israel can defend itself," the US president said.

Obama further declared that US support for the Israeli military was "not only an important part of our obligation to the security of the state of Israel, but also an important part of US security infrastructure in the region."

Improving relations

The meeting is also expected to deal with enhancing the capabilities of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in the wake of the agreement between the major powers and Iran over its nuclear program, which Netanyahu sees as an existential threat to his country.

Netanyahu is also interested in obtaining Obama's agreement to increase American military aid to Israel to more than $4 billion (3.71 billion euros) a year.

Apart from Netanyahu's attempt to foil Congressional approval of the nuclear agreement, the Israeli leader has further alienated Obama by appointing a conservative commentator, Ran Baratz, as his spokesman. Baratz has called Obama anti-Semitic and has also criticized US Secretary of State John Kerry.

Last week, he was forced to issue an apology. Netanyahu too issued a statement distancing himself from Baratz' posts, calling them "totally unacceptable."

dr/kms (AP, dpa, Reuters)

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