Pressed on Palestinian state, Netanyahu changes the subject – to Iran
Ahead of his Monday meeting with Obama, who supports a two-state solution, the Israeli prime minister wants to make Iran's nuclear ambitions the focus of regional diplomacy.
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On Monday, he met with Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak, followed by a meeting with Jordan's King Abdullah II on Thursday, reportedly to express his intention to engage in talks with Palestinian leaders. Next week, he is expected to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Just six weeks into his second term, Mr. Netanyahu has so far shown little interest in making concessions, and – most troubling to Arab leaders – he has not expressed support for a Palestinian state. He has instead cast Iranian nuclear ambitions as his nation's main concern and is expected to appeal for Mr. Obama's support on this issue during their forthcoming meeting.
Netanyahu has envisioned "unprecedented cooperation" between Israelis and Sunni Arab states – such as Egypt and Jordan, where he visited this week – to contain that threat.
But as King Abdullah and his allies push hard for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – a solution Obama supports – many Middle East analysts say Netanyahu's focus on Iran may be an attempt to divert attention from the peace process.
During his meeting with President Mubarak on Monday, the Israeli premier expressed his intent to resume peace talks with Palestinian authorities, but also called attention to Sunni Arabs' shared concerns about Shiite Iran's nuclear program.
After meeting with Pope Benedict XVI on Thursday, Netanyahu told reporters that he'd urged the Roman Catholic leader to use his position to speak out against Iran. Earlier this week, the pope called for a Palestinian homeland.