President Barack Obama met quietly with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House Monday night, but the meeting didn't lead to any sign of progress in Middle East peace talks.
Reporters are usually in the Oval Office for these meetings, but none were allowed in last night. The White House said the two leaders discussed Israel's security, Middle East peace and other issues.
While speaking to the Jewish Federations of North America, Netanyahu said peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians should resume. He also promised to do more to improve economic conditions in Palestinian areas. But he said nothing on holding back new Jewish construction in the West Bank.
"I believe there is no time to waste; we need to move toward peace with a sense of urgency and with a sense of purpose," Netanyahu said. "I want to make this clear: My goal is not to have endless negotiations. My goal is not negotiations for the sake of negotiations. My goal is to achieve a permanent peace treaty between Israel and the Palestinians."
The prime minister also said Israel is willing to make "great concessions for peace," without sacrificing its security.
At the State Department, spokesman Ian C. Kelly said the administration's special envoy for Mideast peace, George Mitchell, has no immediate plans to return to the region to continue his push for a resumption of peace talks.
A statement issued by the office of Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said he was meeting in Washington with a range of U.S. defense officials. It quoted Barak as saying Israel is "doing all it can" to renew peace talks with the Palestinians.
"Israel must act with all its strength to reach agreements with its neighbors," Barak was quoted as telling U.S. officials. "It's crucial to enlist President Obama and the United States to the effort of opening negotiations. The United States is the world's leading power and Obama's presidency has a rare opportunity to reach peace. All other alternatives are much worse."