Obama, Netanyahu talk ‘regional security’ in phone call

WASHINGTON (JTA) — President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discussed regional security issues in a phone conversation.

“The two leaders discussed regional security issues and Middle East peace,” a brief White House statement said of the phone call Wednesday. “They agreed to continue the close coordination between the United States and Israel on a range of security issues.”

Netanyahu, in his own statement Thursday while on a tour of China, suggested the greater emphasis was on the turmoil roiling the region.

“Last night I spoke with President Obama just like I have been speaking with China’s leaders over the past few days and just like I spoke to [Russian] President [Vladimir] Putin a few days ago, and I discussed with them a range of bilateral and international issues,” Netanyahu said. “Just like the Chinese protected themselves and defended themselves with the Great Wall, so we will continue to defend ourselves on the southern border, the Golan Heights and on all fronts.”

Syria has blamed Israel for two bombing raids over the weekend that reportedly destroyed Iranian missiles bound for the Lebanese Hezbollah terrorist group.

Neither Israel nor the United States have confirmed Israel’s role in those attacks, but Obama in a TV interview emphatically defended Israel’s right to intercept weapons transfers to Hezbollah.

The Obama administration meantime is accelerating efforts to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met Wednesday in Washington with top Israeli peace negotiators.

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