WASHINGTON, May 20 – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu heard calls for a halt to Jewish settlements as a necessary step toward peace in the Middle East Tuesday during a visit to the US Congress.
Netanyahu met with members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee whose chairman Senator John Kerry said he had directly addressed the settlements issue with the prime minister.
“I reemphasized to the prime minister the importance of Israel moving forward especially in respect to the settlements issue,” Kerry told reporters after the session.
“We also emphasized that this is not a one way street and the burden is not only on Israel to take all the steps,” he said.
He said it was vital that the Arab world also “takes steps to indicate its willingness to contribute to the progress on the road towards peace.”
Netanyahu, who emerged from the meeting with Kerry, said Israel would pursue peace with the Palestinians independently of what happens in Iran, which the United States and Israel both fear is developing a nuclear weapons capability.
“We have a unique historical circumstance in that Israel and many of our Arab neighbors understand the threat posed by Iran’s quest to develop nuclear weapons capabilities,” Netanyahu said.
“We intend to pursue the peace track independently of what happens in Iran, but in point of fact it should be done in parallel,” he said.
Netanyahu met Monday with President Barack Obama who has pursued a diplomatic approach to dealing with Iran, and who also said Israel must stop settlement building in the West Bank.