JERUSALEM - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on the eve of a White House visit by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas that Palestinians must also be pressed to meet commitments under a U.S.-backed peace plan.
Pledging to honor Israel's international agreements, which include a 2003 peace road map with the Palestinians, Netanyahu said, We want an end to the conflict and we want reciprocity in the demands made of both sides, and in carrying them out.
After meeting Netanyahu on May 18, Obama reaffirmed a main hallmark of the road map -- creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel -- and called for a halt to Israeli settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank.
Netanyahu, who delivered a policy speech in parliament, has not directly endorsed Palestinian statehood and has said construction in existing Jewish settlements would continue to accommodate growing families.
In Washington, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the United States wanted Israel to stop expanding Jewish settlements without exception and would push this point with its ally.
The president was very clear when Prime Minister Netanyahu was here. He wants to see a stop to settlements -- not some settlements, not outposts, not natural growth exceptions, Clinton said at a news conference with Egypt's foreign minister.
That is our position. That is what we have communicated very clearly, not only to the Israelis but to the Palestinians and others, and we intend to press that point.
Netanyahu has demanded Abbas' Palestinian Authority meet its commitments under the road map, including a crackdown on militants -- a task complicated by the 2007 takeover of the Gaza Strip by Hamas Islamists.
In Washington Thursday, Abbas intends to urge Obama to press Israel to stop settlement expansion, Palestinian officials said.
Responding to Netanyahu, Abbas aide Nabil Abu Rdainah said the Palestinians had fulfilled their obligations but Israel had not met its commitments to halt settlement building.
Rdainah accused Netanyahu of pressing demands to crack down on militants as a pretext to avoid recognizing the two-state solution.
Underscoring some common ground with Obama, who is to make a June 4 speech in Egypt to the Muslim world, Netanyahu called in parliament for Arab countries to join the peace effort.
The Israeli leader has proposed shifting the focus of currently suspended peace talks with the Palestinians from difficult territorial issues he said have stymied progress to improving economic, security and political relations.
Abbas has said Netanyahu must accept the principle of Palestinian statehood before negotiations can resume.
We are prepared to take, and we will take, concrete steps toward peace with the Palestinians. We also expect the Palestinians to take concrete steps, Netanyahu said.
A statement issued by the prime minister's office said Netanyahu convened a ministerial committee earlier in the day to discuss ways to improve the situation of Palestinian residents in the West Bank.
Netanyahu told the committee it would soon be asked to examine several economic projects that would benefit the Palestinians and that Israel would seek international funding for the initiatives.