JERUSALEM, Israel -- President Obama made a "surprise" appearance Thursday moments after a meeting between his national security adviser Tom Donilon and Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz began at the White House.
Mofaz told the president he joined the government to help restart negotiations with the Palestinian Authority, saying that, in his view, there's an 18-month window of opportunity to resume talks.
Before the 35-minute meeting ended, Mofaz asked Obama to increase sanctions against Iran in view of the failed meetings this spring between the P5+1 (United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia, China, and Germany) and Iran in Istanbul, Baghdad, and Moscow.
Mofaz told Israeli reporters afterward Iran had used the talks to gain time for its nuclear weapons development, something, he said, the United States is "determined" to thwart. He said he "heard a definitive commitment to keeping Iran from becoming nuclear."
Mofaz also said he and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are committed to restarting peace talks without preconditions, saying he's cautiously optimistic it will happen in the near future.
"Whether it will be three weeks or three months, I don't know," he said.
The day before, Mofaz sat down with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to discuss the stalled talks and Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons. Following the meeting, Mofaz issued a written statement.
"It is time for the United States and Western powers to impose more severe sanctions in the oil embargo and financial sectors in order to stop Iran's nuclear development program," the statement read.
Clinton also met Wednesday with P.A. chief negotiator Saeb Erekat, who later told reporters, "We want to resume negotiations," if Israel stops all construction in Judea and Samaria.
Erekat and P.A. leader Mahmoud Abbas also insist Israel accept the pre-1967 armistice lines as the borders for a Palestinian state, with Jerusalem as its capital, before meaningful discussions can begin.
Netanyahu says those borders -- which leave Israel nine-miles wide at one point -- are indefensible and therefore unacceptable.
Netanyahu also said Jerusalem will remain the eternal, undivided capital of the Jewish state.