US & Canada

US and Israel leaders still seeking peace in Middle East

Obama and Netanyahu shaking hands Image copyright AFP

US President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have said that they have not given up on finding peace in the Middle East.

It is their first face-to-face meeting since relations deteriorated over a nuclear deal between world powers and Iran.

Mr Netanyahu is also seeking a boost in the annual US military aid for Israel's security.

The Washington talks come amid weeks of unrest between Israel and Palestinians.

Six Israelis were wounded in knife attacks by Palestinians on Sunday. A Palestinian who drew a knife on Israeli guards was shot dead on Monday.

In brief remarks at the White House ahead of the meeting, Mr Obama said he would seek his counterpart's thoughts on ways to lower tension between Palestinians and Israelis.

He said he wanted to get the two groups "back on a path towards peace".

Mr Netanyahu echoed the sentiments saying, "we have not given up our hope for peace". He underscored his desire for a two-state solution.

The two leaders are also planning to talk about the ongoing conflict in Syria and the implementation of the nuclear deal with Iran.

Relations between Mr Netanyahu and Mr Obama were strained over that deal, which was bitterly opposed by Israel.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption The past month has seen clashes between Palestinians and Israeli forces

In the last week, the US has also expressed its surprise at Mr Netanyahu's choice of a new spokesman, Ran Baratz, who made controversial comments about administration officials.

On Facebook, Mr Baratz accused Mr Obama of anti-Semitism and described US Secretary of State John Kerry as having a "mental age" of no more than 12.

A US state department spokesman said the posts were "troubling and offensive". Mr Baratz will not be part of Israel's delegation.

The talks in the US are expected to pave the way towards an increase in US security aid to Israel from $3.1bn (£2bn) a year to $5bn, media reports say.

On Monday morning a Palestinian woman was shot dead when she ignored warnings to stop after approaching security guards with a knife at a crossroads in the West Bank, Israeli officials said.

In the West Bank city of Nablus on Sunday, four Israelis were struck by a car driven by a Palestinian man, who was then killed by security forces.

The upsurge in violence began in September, when tensions at a flashpoint holy site in East Jerusalem revered by Jews and Muslims boiled over amid rumours Israel planned to relax long-standing rules to strengthen Jewish rights at the complex.

Israel has repeatedly denied such claims.