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President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 2013. / Charles Dharapak, AP

WASHINGTON - President Obama urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday to back a U.S.- drafted framework for a peace deal with the Palestinians, saying "tough decisions" are needed to forge a new Palestinian state.

"But it is difficult and requires compromise from both sides," Obama told Netanyahu.

Obama also sought to allay Netanyahu's concerns about U.S.-led efforts to strike a long-term deal with Iran over its nuclear program, pledging "my absolute commitment to make sure that Iran does not have a nuclear weapon."

For his part, Netanyahu said the Palestinians need to recognize the legitimacy of the Jewish state, telling reporters: "Israel has been doing its part, and I regret to say that the Palestinians haven't."

He added that Israel wants peace - "not a piece of paper ... but a real peace."

Before the Oval Office meeting with Obama, the Israeli leader also said he will do "whatever I must do" to defend Israel and prevent Iran from obtaining the means to make a nuclear weapon.

Netanyahu spent nearly three hours at the White House.

Secretary of State John Kerry has set an an end-of-April deadline for signing onto a framework for an Israeli-Palestinian agreement that has eluded participants for decades. The latest proposed framework is designed to address such long-standing issues as the borders between Israel and a prospective Palestinian state, the fate of Palestinian refugees and the status of the city of Jerusalem.

Obama is scheduled to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in two weeks, on March 17.

In an interview with Bloomberg View, Obama said Netanyahu and Israel need to support the framework or face the prospect of international isolation in the future.

If Netanyahu "does not believe that a peace deal with the Palestinians is the right thing to do for Israel, then he needs to articulate an alternative approach," Obama said. "It's hard to come up with one that's plausible."

Netanyahu, before leaving for Washington, told Israel's Channel 2 television that he will not "give in to pressure" from the United States or the international community.

"I want a deal," he said. "It has to be a good deal."

After his visit to the White House, Netanyahu traveled to Capitol Hill to meet with congressional leaders.

Netanyahu is also in Washington to speak to the annual meeting of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

Obama met with Netanyahu at an anxious time internationally. The White House is working with allies to form a response to Russia's military intervention in Ukraine, a challenge that Netanyahu referenced as he told Obama, "I know you've got a few other pressing matters on your plate."

Netanyahu has criticized the existing short-term agreement among the U.S., allies and Iran. The Israeli leader says Tehran is seeking the means to make a nuclear weapon; Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful energy purposes.

The short-term deal is scheduled to expire in July, and the Obama administration is working on a long-term agreement. Obama said diplomacy is the best way to prevent Iran from being able to get a nuclear weapon.

The American and Israeli leaders also discussed the long-running civil war in Syria, the political turmoil in Egypt, and mutual counter-terrorism efforts.

While Obama and Netanyahu have had their differences over the years, the U.S. president said Monday that "we do not have a closer friend or ally than Israel, and the bond between our two countries and our two peoples in unbreakable."



Copyright 2014 USATODAY.com

Read the original story: Obama and Netanyahu discuss Palestinians, Iran

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