- The Washington Times - Monday, March 3, 2014

President Obama told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Monday that “tough decisions” must be made to move forward with Palestinian peace talks, and he pledged never to allow Iran to develop a nuclear bomb.

During a meeting in the Oval Office, Mr. Obama commended the Israeli leader on “painstaking” negotiations with the U.S. aimed at creating a Palestinian state. But his comments also indicated that he administration-imposed deadline of April for completing a framework for talks is rapidly approaching.

“Tough decisions will have to be made,” Mr. Obama said. “It is still possible to create two states but it is difficult and requires compromise from both sides.”

Mr. Netanyahu told the president that the Palestinians aren’t cooperating, saying they refuse to recognize Israel’s right to exist.

Israel has been doing its part and I regret to say that the Palestinians have not,” Mr. Netanyahu said. “What we want is peace. Mr. President, I think it is about time for the Palestinian people to recognize a state for the Jewish people. In the Middle East, the only peace that can endure is the peace we can defend. The people of Israel expect me to stay strong for the future of the only Jewish state.”

Israelis said proof of their good intentions include the release from prison on Monday of some Palestinians convicted of terrorists activities.

Secretary of State John F. Kerry and Vice President Joseph R. Biden also were in the meeting.

On Iran, Mr. Obama said it’s his “absolute commitment” that Iran will not acquire nuclear weapons. Mr. Netanyahu opposes a U.S.-brokered deal that is easing international sanctions against Iran in exchange for rolling back its suspected nuclear weapons program