(CNN) – Obama administration's special envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, returned to the region Thursday, even as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu emphasized that "there will be no freeze" on construction opposed by Palestinians and the United States.
Mitchell's visit comes in the wake of talks this week that included U.S., Israeli and Palestinian officials.
"At the end of those discussions last night, we thought it was fruitful for George to travel to the region," said State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley. He provided no details.
(CNN) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has informed the Obama administration that he will not attend President Obama's nuclear security summit in Washington next week, according to a senior U.S. official familiar with the situation.
The move could be a sign of further tension between the United States and Israel and may distract from the Obama administration's attempts to highlight the unprecedented nature of a 46-nation summit aimed at reducing nuclear weapons.
The Israeli government is sending Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor in Netanyahu's place, U.S. National Security Council spokesman Mike Hammer announced Thursday.
Washington (CNN) - President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met for more than three hours Tuesday evening amid a dispute over Israel's decision to build new Jewish housing on disputed land in East Jerusalem.
The Obama administration has pushed to restart peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians and has called on Israel to stop building settlements on territory it captured in the 1967 Mideast war. Netanyahu's meeting at the White House came the day after he defended his government's plans to build new housing units in East Jerusalem, a move that has strained ties with Israel's largest ally.
The Israeli leader arrived after a show of solidarity with leaders of Congress from both parties, during which he thanked the U.S. lawmakers for their "constant support" and "unflagging" friendship.
"Even though the challenges are immense, our will and our partnership is also immense," Netanyahu said at an appearance with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, and House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet with U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House on Tuesday, as the allies remain at odds over Israel's plan to build new housing on disputed land in East Jerusalem.
The leaders will meet two weeks after Israel announced the planned construction of 1,600 apartments in a disputed area claimed by both Israelis and Palestinians. That announcement came during U.S. Vice President Joe Biden's visit to Israel and has strained ties between Netanyahu's government and the Obama administration, which is pushing for new talks to end the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
"Our goal in any of this is to create an atmosphere of trust and open dialogue, to bring these two sides together so that the discussions can be substantive in moving towards comprehensive Middle Eastern peace," White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said at a Monday briefing. "I think the president is hopeful that we will in this meeting make progress and ... get these two parties back to, not just back physically to talks, but to the type of relationship that is necessary for those talks to bear fruit."
On Monday, Netanyahu sharply defended his government's plan for new housing in East Jerusalem.
In a defiant speech to the leading pro-Israel lobby in the United States on Monday night, Netanyahu said Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem are "an integral and inextricable part of modern Jerusalem."
"The connection between the Jewish people and Jerusalem cannot be denied," Netanyahu said to prolonged applause at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). "The Jewish people were building Jerusalem 3,000 years ago, and the Jewish people are building Jerusalem today. Jerusalem is not a settlement. It is our capital."
(CNN) - Israel and most of the world want regime change in Iran, but the main objective is to prevent the current Iranian leadership from developing a nuclear weapon, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday.
Appearing on the NBC news show "Meet The Press," Netanyahu said a nuclear-armed Iran would destabilize the Middle East and threaten the entire world by triggering an arms race and supplying catastrophic weapons to terrorists.
"The goal is to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons," Netanyahu said, adding that most governments in the Middle East, Europe and elsewhere agreed. "We all don't want to see this regime acquiring nuclear weapons.… It's not merely an interest of Israel."
U.S. President Barack Obama is as committed as his predecessor to preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear power, Netanyahu said.
"It's my view that there's an American commitment to make sure that doesn't happen," he said.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – The elusive search for a Middle East peace will be center stage Thursday as U.S. President Barack Obama sits down with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. The afternoon White House meeting comes one week after Obama met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and pressed the Israeli leader to halt West Bank settlement activity to create a better atmosphere for peace talks.
It also comes only days before Obama is scheduled to meet with Saudi King Abdullah in Riyadh and deliver a long-awaited speech on relations between the United States and the Muslim world in Cairo, Egypt.
During his meeting with Netanyahu, Obama pushed for a firm Israeli commitment to Palestinian statehood as part of the so-called two-state solution - a position strongly advocated by Abbas.
Netanyahu has committed to removing illegal settlement "outposts," but has also pledged to continue expansion, or "natural growth" of existing settlements.
At the same time, he has refrained from endorsing Palestinian statehood, arguing that Israel first needs security guarantees and a clear Palestinian partner for peace talks.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - On the eve of President Obama's meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Wednesday that the Obama administration wants a complete halt to settlement activity by Israel, which she argued would help Washington's Mideast peace efforts.
"We think it is in the best interest of the effort that we are engaged in that settlement expansion cease," she said following a meeting with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Ali Aboul Gheit.
Clinton spoke hours before having dinner with Abbas, who will meet with President Obama at the White House Thursday.
Last week President Obama met with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, where he pressed him to commit to the creation of a Palestinian state and halt settlement activity to create a better atmosphere for peace talks.
Netanyahu has committed to removing illegal settlement "outposts," but has pledged to continue expansion, or "natural growth"of existing settlements.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Wednesday Israel must halt settlement activity and Arab nations must move toward peace with Israel as the Obama administration prepares to lay out its vision for the Mideast.
"It is clear that the settlement activity has to cease," Clinton said in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Her comments come on the heels of a visit to Washington this week by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and in advance of a visit next week by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak also was scheduled to visit Washington next week but postponed his trip Wednesday after the death of his grandson.
After the series of meetings, President Barack Obama is expected to lay out his vision for Mideast peace negotiations when he addresses the Muslim world in a speech in Cairo next month.
Clinton said that during Netanyahu's visit, she and Obama reaffirmed the administration's desire for a two-state solution and emphasized negotiations on a deal must must begin with an end to settlement activity.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - U.S. President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday held their first face-to-face meeting since each took power, confronting a range of potentially divisive issues.
At a pivotal moment in the Middle East peace process, the two leaders met at the White House to discuss, among other things, the endorsement of a two-state Palestinian solution and relations with Syria and Iran.
The issue of Iran's nuclear ambitions has becoming an increasingly urgent issue in recent months. Netanyahu wants a time limit for negotiations relating to such ambitions, with the threat of military action if no resolution is reached. Obama is seen as unlikely to provide a timetable.
Both Israel and the United States believe that Iran is seeking nuclear weapons under the guise of a civilian nuclear energy program; Tehran denies the accusation. Israeli leaders have pointed to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's calls for the end of Israel as a Jewish state, and argue that quick action is needed.
Speaking at an Oval Office news conference, Obama again refused to commit to an "artificial deadline" for Iranian negotiations. But he also warned that he would not allow talks to be used as an excuse for delay while Iran develops a nuclear arsenal.
"I firmly believe it is in Iran's interest not to develop nuclear weapons, because it would trigger a nuclear arms race in the Middle East and be profoundly destabilizing in all sorts of ways," Obama said.