Netanyahu Meets with Gates, Wraps Up U.S. Visit

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WASHINGTON - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wrapped up his last day in Washington, D.C., Wednesday, meeting with Defense Secretary Robert Gates to discuss security interests and the threat from Iran to his country.

Netanyahu told Gates he's concerned that a withdrawal from Iraq, along with Iran's nuclear program, would lead to a new threat on Israel from the east.

The prime minister also wants the U.S. to provide security guarantees following peace talks with the Palestinians.

Later Wednesday, Netanyahu met with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon in New York to discuss Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and the Gaza blockade.

Both meetings come after friendly talks at the White House with President Barack Obama where -- despite reports of previous tension and a possible rift -- the two assured the U.S. and Israel have an "unbreakable" bond and are making progress on major issues in the Middle East.

Netanyahu received a warm welcome at the White House Tuesday. It was a much different tone than the last meeting between the two in March, when photos were prevented and the prime minister used a side door to enter and exit.

"Our relationship has broadened," Obama said.

"I think it's time you and the first lady came to Israel," Netanyahu offered.

CBN News Mideast Bureau Chief Chris Mitchell has more reaction to the meeting between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu.  Click play for his comments, following Erick Stakelbeck's report.

Also, click here for additional analysis from CBN News Sr. Editor John Waage. 

The leaders went out their way to tout their relationship, both saying reports of tension between the U.S. and Israel were overplayed.

"The reports about the demise of the special U.S.-Israel relationship aren't just premature, they're just flat wrong," Netanyahu told reporters. "There's a depth in this relationship that we express everyday."

"Our commitment to Israel's security has been unwavering," Obama added.

Yet, behind the positive tone, difficult issues remain. On peace talks, both agree Israelis and Palestinians should move toward face-to-face negotiations.

"We're committed to that peace. I'm committed to that peace," Netanyahu said. "This peace would change the lives of Israelis, Palestinians, and certainly would change our region."

Still, the U.S. is pressuring Netanyahu to extend the 10-month freeze on West Bank construction to get the Palestinians to the table. Arab states are also being pressured.

"I think it's very important that the Palestinians not look for excuses for incitement," Obama said. "That they are not engaging in provocative language (and) that, at the international level, they are maintaining a constructive tone."

Obama hailed "real progress" on Israel's decision to allow more goods to flow into Gaza. And on Iran -- a key issue for Israel -- Netanyahu praised new U.S. sanctions signed by Obama last week, hoping more nations will follow suit.

"I think the sanctions the president signed the other day actually have teeth, they bite," Netanyahu said. "The question is how much do you need to bite?"

The two leaders said they also discussed steps that can be taken to move the peace process along as soon as possible and are optimistic progress will be made.

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CBN News
Erick Stakelbeck

Erick Stakelbeck

CBN News Correspondent

Erick Stakelbeck is a sought after authority on terrorism and national security issues with extensive experience in television, radio, and print media. Stakelbeck is a correspondent and terrorism analyst for CBN News.  Follow Erick on Twitter @Staks33.