ANDREWS AIR FORCE BASE, Maryland - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu concluded an unusually low-key U.S. visit on Tuesday voicing confidence that his White House talks would benefit Israel's security and peacemaking efforts.
Netanyahu, whose ties with Washington have been strained by Israeli settlement policies on occupied West Bank land where Palestinians seek statehood, met U.S. President Barack Obama away from the media spotlight on Monday evening.
It was a very focused and very positive conversation, Netanyahu said before departing. This conversation dealt with the range of subjects that are important for the security of Israel, and for our joint efforts to advance peace.
He did not elaborate, saying only: I think this visit will turn out to have been very important.
Mahmoud Abbas, the U.S.-backed Palestinian president, has said he has no desire to run for re-election in January and has accused Washington of failing to press Israel strongly for a freeze on settlements as mandated by a 2003 peace road map.
Yuli Edelstein, an Israeli cabinet minister accompanying Netanyahu, said in a radio interview earlier on Tuesday that the White House talks had included a discussion of Iran, whose nuclear program and support for Islamist guerrillas are cited by Israel as obstacles to its peacemaking with Arab neighbors.
Israel backs efforts by the United States and other powers to talk Tehran into curbing nuclear projects with bomb-making potential. But the Israelis, assumed to have the Middle East's only atomic arms, have not ruled out preemptive military action.
(Reporting by Jeffrey Heller, Writing by Dan Williams, Editing by Cynthia Osterman)