Netanyahu: Israel's Taken 'Unprecedented Steps'

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- The Palestinians must want peace as badly as Israel does to achieve a negotiated settlement, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told President Barack Obama at the White House on Monday.

He also said Iran is the greatest challenge facing Israel and the United States.

Netanyahu said he's obligated to do everything he can "to defend the Jewish state" from the greatest challenge it's facing: preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons capability.

"I think that goal can be achieved if Iran is prevented from enriching uranium and dismantles fully its military nuclear installations," he said.

Addressing negotiations with the Palestinian Authority, Netanyahu said Israel has taken "unprecedented steps" to reach an agreement over the past two decades.

"The 20 years that have passed since Israel entered the peace process have been marked by unprecedented steps that Israel has taken to advance peace," Netanyahu said.

Those steps have included vacating cities in Judea and Samaria and pulling out of the Gaza Strip entirely.

In an effort to woo the P.A. to resume direct talks, Israel not only froze construction in Judea and Samaria, it uprooted entire settlements and "released hundreds of terrorist prisoners, including dozens in recent months," he continued.

"And when you look at what we got in return, it's been scores of suicide bombings, thousands of rockets on our cities fired from the areas we vacated, and just incessant Palestinian incitement against Israel. So Israel has been doing its part, and I regret to say the Palestinians haven't," he concluded.

Netanyahu said Israelis want "real peace…not a piece of paper."

If the Palestinians want Israel to recognize their future state, "…it's about time they recognize a nation-state for the Jewish people. We've only been there for 4,000 years," he said.

Meanwhile, P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas, who's scheduled to meet with Obama next week, said he would consider extending negotiations if Netanyahu agrees to another construction freeze and more prisoner releases.

"The only chance that we will agree to extend the talks will be if Netanyahu declares a settlement construction freeze and the releasing of more prisoners," Abbas told MK Zehava Gal-On, chairwoman of the ultra-left-wing Meretz Party, during a meeting in Ramallah.

Some say the U.S. response to the crisis in Ukraine effectively weakens the Obama administration's leverage with Netanyahu to agree to another round of concessions.

Click here to read the full transcript of Netanyahu's remarks.

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