President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held more than two hours of talks 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.
"We have no stronger ally anywhere in the world than Israel and we all know that we're in a difficult moment, but I'm glad the prime minister is here ... so we can have an open and straightforward dialogue about how we can provide more security for our friends in Israel and do everything we can to make sure that the Iranians have no ability to develop a nuclear weapon," Boehner said.
Pelosi told reporters that Congress speaks with "one voice" on the subject of Israel. "Together we remain committed to advancing the peace process, preserving Israel's security, responsible sanctions against Iran," she said.
Netanyahu's visit to Washington comes as Israel and the United States find themselves at odds over Israel's plan to build new housing on disputed land in East Jerusalem - a plan he defended sharply Monday night. Israel's announcement two weeks ago that it plans to build 1,600 apartments in an area claimed by both Israelis and Palestinians came amid an Obama administration push for new Israeli-Palestinian talks, but Netanyahu told the American Israel Public Affairs Committee that "The connection between the Jewish people and Jerusalem cannot be denied."