Reps. Royce, Engel talk Iran, Syria with Netanyahu

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The top Republican and Democrat on the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee discussed the potential Iranian threat and instability in Syria with Israel’s prime minister.  

Reps. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), the chairman of the committee and Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), its ranking member, met Wednesday with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem as heads of a bipartisan delegation of House members travelling to Israel during the recess.

“As Iran’s nuclear program advances, now is the time to step up the pressure on the Iranian regime,” Royce said in his statement. “In my meetings with Prime Minister Netanyahu, other senior Israeli officials, entrepreneurs, and citizens, we discussed not only the threats facing our two countries from rogue regimes such as Iran and Syria, but the opportunities that exist for our two nations working together.”

Netanyahu also expressed readiness to work with the Obama administration as it attempts to reconvene Israeli-Palestinian talks.

“We’re engaged right now in an effort that we appreciate led by President Obama and Secretary [of State John] Kerry to restart the peace negotiations between us and the Palestinians,” Netanyahu said after the meeting. “We’re eager to do it; we have no preconditions and we think there shouldn’t be any preconditions to restart negotiations.”

Palestinians have insisted on a settlement freeze before rejoining negotiations.

“We do think that to finish the negotiations, we need two basic pillars: one is that the Palestinians recognize the Jewish state and second that Israel has solid security arrangements,” Netanyahu said.

Palestinians have repeatedly recognized Israel, but Israeli governments in recent years have demanded also a recognition of Israel’s Jewish character.

Royce and Engel also laid a wreath at Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial.

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