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Peres to Biden: Can’t stop natural growth

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Israel cannot control natural settlement growth, Shimon Peres told Joe Biden.

The Israeli president met Tuesday with the U.S. vice president as well as President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and congressional leaders ahead of a visit to Washington later this month by Benjamin Netanyahu, the new Israeli prime minister.

Peres and Biden had both addressed this week’s American Israel Public Affairs Committee annual policy conference.

In his speech Tuesday, Biden made clear that the Obama administration expected Israel not to build new settlements. It is also the U.S. expectation that Israel inhibit "natural" settlement growth, or new building within existing settlements.

Peres told reporters afterward that he told Biden that "Israel cannot instruct settlers in existing settlements not to have children or get married."

Peres’ meeting with Obama, scheduled for 20 minutes, ran an hour. The top issue on the agenda was the threat of Iran’s suspected plans to build a nuclear weapon.

During the meeting, Peres said, Obama said his support for Israel’s security was unequivocal and would last his whole term. James Jones, Obama’s national security adviser, and Rahm Emanuel, his chief of staff, were in attendance. Obama asked to meet Peres privately for the last 15 minutes of the meeting.

Another difference arising between the two administrations is Netanyahu’s refusal thus far to explicitly commit to a two-state solution. Peres said he told his interlocutors that Netanyahu was committed to previous agreements that bind Israel to a two-state solution and that he was trying to keep together a broad coalition including parties with strong settler support.

"As soon as he committed to prior agreements, he committed to a two-state solution," Peres said.

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