WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama opened his deepest foray Monday into the Middle East quagmire, telling Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu that he must stop Jewish settlements and should grasp a "historic opportunity" to make peace with the Palestinians.
Obama also had pointed words for Iran on a second major Mideast dispute, warning it has until year's end to get serious about talks with the world community on curbing its nuclear ambitions. "We're not going to have talks forever," the president said.
Obama and Netanyahu spoke highly of their hopes for progress in the Mideast after a lengthy private meeting in the Israeli's first visit to the White House since Obama became president and Netanyahu began his second stint as prime minister. Yet the new president was firm in insisting the Israelis move toward peace with the Palestinians, and Netanyahu stuck to his stance that Israel cannot negotiate with people who deny its right to exist.
The two leaders found fruitful grounds for agreement on Iran. Israel is deeply concerned about Iran's perceived attempts to build a nuclear weapon, believing the virulently anti-Israeli regime might target the Jewish state, which lies in easy range of Tehran's missile technology.