Obama, Netanyahu to discuss push for direct peace talks
US President Barack Obama will urge Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to move towards direct talks with the Palestinians, when the two leaders meet at the White House Tuesday, dpa reported.
Ahead of the meeting, the United States dismissed suggestions of a diplomatic rift with Israel.
The two countries have been working to move beyond a dispute that erupted in March after Israel announced new construction on East Jerusalem land claimed by the Palestinians.
The March announcement angered Washington as it came while Vice President Joe Biden was in Israel to finalize the beginning of the indirect negotiations mediated by the United States.
US officials openly criticized Israel in what many observers characterized as the worst crisis between the two close countries in decades.
But now the White House is eager to move on and keep the Israelis and Palestinians focused on negotiations. Officials said Obama will urge Netanyahu in Tuesday's meeting to capitalize on the "momentum" that has been gained under the indirect talks.
In Jerusalem, Netanyahu told ministers at the weekly cabinet meeting Sunday, "The main goal of the talks with President Obama will be to advance direct talks in the peace process between us and the Palestinians."
US officials also said Obama will press Netanyahu to do more to improve the situation in the Gaza Strip, which the president has called "unsustainable." Israel has maintained an embargo on Gaza since Hamas militants seized control of the tiny territory in 2007.