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Obama, Peres Discuss Israeli-Palestinian Peace

In his remarks to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee Monday night, Peres said, "Binyamin Netanyahu was at one time my political opponent. Today, he is my prime minister. He knows history and wants to make history. In our tradition, making history is making peace, and I am sure that peace is his priority."

But Peres was less specific than he has been in the past about what shape that peace agreement would take. He also noted that "the aggressiveness of the Iranian government is not limited to Israel. Indeed, they seek regional hegemony and want to control Arab states using terror and coercion."

Lieberman has perhaps come closer than Netanyahu to endorsing a two-state solution, even suggesting that some Arab-majority areas of what is now Israel should be carved off and included in a future Palestinian state in the West Bank. But the ethnic edge to Lieberman's policies -- he has recommend that Israel's Arab citizens be required to take a loyalty oath to the Jewish state -- have made him an unlikely diplomat.

In a speech this morning, Vice President Biden told the AIPAC convention that Israel must accept a two-state solution and urged the government to stop settlement construction in the West Bank, dismantle unauthorized outposts that often grow into full-fledged settlements, and allow Palestinians greater freedom of movement.

The advocacy group, which has long monopolized the issue of Israel on Capitol Hill, is now facing a rival in J Street, a lobbying group that is pushing U.S. lawmakers to encourage the Israeli government to make peace with the Palestinians.

Netanyahu appears to be trying to reduce his role, at least when it comes to U.S. diplomacy. On Sunday, Netanyahu named Michael Oren, a noted Israeli historian who was born in New Jersey, to serve as his ambassador to Washington.

Oren has taught at Yale University, served in the Israeli army, and written acclaimed histories of the 1967 war and U.S. diplomacy in the Middle East since its founding. During Israel's 2006 war with Hezbollah in Lebanon and last year in Gaza, Oren has been called up to serve as a military spokesman, underscoring his ability to explain Israeli interests to an international audience.

Today's White House meeting comes as Khaled Mashal, the exiled political leader of Hamas, has reiterated his proposal to accept a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem in return for a 10-year truce with Israel.

In an interview with the New York Times, Mashal said he would not formally recognize the Jewish state, which the Obama administration has demanded as a pre-requisite for talks with the group, whose 1987 charter calls for Israel's destruction.

But he said Hamas fighters had stopped firing rockets into southern Israel, and said, "I promise the American administration and the international community that we will be part of the solution, period."

Correspondent Howard Schneider in Jerusalem contributed to this report.


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