The discussions also touched on the dangers of the escalating civil war in neighboring Syria and other changes ushered in by last year’s Arab Spring uprisings.
“We’re living in a time of unprecedented change, a lot of challenges for us both,” Clinton said before a dinner with Netanyahu. “And we will continue to consult closely . . . to chart the best way forward for peace and stability for Israel, the United States, the region and the world.”
At a news conference after the meeting, Clinton said that she and the prime minister had continued “a very long, in-depth, ongoing consultation” about Iran. “We know the sanctions are biting, and we talked about concrete steps we could take to keep building the pressure,” she said.
She didn’t specify what those steps might be, adding that the United States would prefer a diplomatic solution but would “use all elements of American power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”
Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Israel’s most hawkish voices on the issue, have said that sanctions and diplomacy are only giving Iran more time to build a bomb, and they have expressed little confidence in President Obama’s promise to keep that from happening.
Netanyahu and Barak have said Israel reserves all options to thwart a nuclear Iran, including a possible independent Israeli attack on that country’s nuclear sites. Though the hard-line narrative has cooled in recent months, the stumbling international talks with Iran have revived speculation about a preemptive Israeli strike — which, if it occurred in the coming months, could pull Obama into a new Middle East conflict as he campaigns for reelection.
Before arriving in Israel, Clinton met with Egypt’s new Islamist president, Mohamed Morsi. She said Monday that her message to Morsi and Netanyahu was the same: The United States is looking to Egypt’s new leaders to play a constructive role in advancing regional peace and security, particularly by upholding the peace treaty with Israel.
In comments before the meeting, Netanyahu said that Egypt “has been an anchor of peace” in maintaining a 1979 peace treaty stemming from the Camp David accords and that Israeli leaders are concerned about its future under an Islamist government.
Clinton also held talks with Barak, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and President Shimon Peres, and with Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.
In a statement after their meeting, Peres stressed the importance of maintaining Israel’s peace treaty with Egypt and denounced the violence in Syria.