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Netanyahu commits to two-state solution at friendly Obama meeting

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated his support for a two-state solution at a White House meeting with President Barack Obama last night.

At a press conference prior to the meeting, Netanyahu told reporters “I want to make it clear that we have not given up our hope for peace. We will never give up our hope for peace. I remain committed to a vision of peace of two states for two peoples: a demilitarised Palestinian state that recognises the Jewish state.

“I don’t think anyone should doubt Israel’s determination to defend itself against terror…but neither should anyone doubt Israel’s willingness to make peace with any of its neighbours that genuinely want to achieve peace with us.”

President Obama emphasised Israel’s right to self-defence, saying “I want to be very clear that we condemn in the strongest terms Palestinian violence against innocent Israeli citizens and I want to repeat once again that it is my strong belief that Israel has not just the right but an obligation to protect itself.”

The meeting comes after tensions between Israel and the USA over the Iran nuclear deal. Addressing this, President Obama said that while “it’s no secret that the prime minister and I have had a strong disagreement over this narrow issue, we do not have a disagreement on the need to make sure Iran does not get a nuclear weapon.”

The meeting reportedly discussed steps that Israel may take to try and restore calm. According to Haaretz, Israel is considering easing some restrictions in the West Bank, as well as approving new Palestinian infrastructure projects and new Palestinian building in Area C. Mr Netanyahu will meet Secretary of State John Kerry today to discuss these steps further.

Another issue addressed was the instability in the wider Middle East due to the civil war in Syria and the rise of ISIS. Speaking to reporters after the meeting, PM Netanyahu expressed doubts that a diplomatic solution to reunite Syria was possible. He added “If we’re talking about an agreement in Syria, it must include stopping the use of Syrian territory… to carry out direct or indirect attacks on Israel.”

The meeting also reportedly discussed US military aid to Israel, which is expected to increase.

The meeting lasted 45 minutes longer than planned and was described by both sides as warm and friendly. Haaretz reported that Mr Netanyahu called the meeting “the best meeting” between the two leaders so far.