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U.S.-Israel ties strong, Bibi tells his Cabinet

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The alliance between Israel and the United States is "stable and strong," Benjamin Netanyahu told his Cabinet.

The Israeli prime minister briefed the Cabinet Sunday on his visit last week to the United States, where he met with President Obama, other senior American administration officials, media figures and Jewish community leaders.

Netanyahu said the U.S. administration shared his belief that Israel and the Palestinian Authority "must proceed to direct talks in order to advance the peace process."

The prime minister also said he thanked Obama for signing into law "aggressive U.S. sanctions" against Iran several days ago and expressed the hope that other countries would join in them.

The two leaders discussed the recent Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty conference, Netanyahu said, and Obama "made it clear that American policy on these strategic issues has not changed and that the U.S. understands — as the president put it — that due to the size of the threats against it and given our history, the State of Israel is in a special situation."

Netanyahu told the Cabinet that he asked Obama "to use his full strength and influence" to help effect the release of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who has been held by Hamas in Gaza for the past four years.

Netanyahu also held several interviews with major American media outlets and participated in a meeting with Jewish leaders organized by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

"In all of my meetings, I found understanding and support for Israel as a whole, understanding that Israel must be supported at this special time against the attacks — including physical and political — that we have withstood in recent months," Netanyahu said.

The prime minister also announced that he would meet Tuesday with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo to discuss advancing to direct talks with the Palestinian Authority. 

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