JERUSALEM (JTA) — U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice invited Israeli President Shimon Peres to meet with President Obama in the White House.
Rice, leading a delegation of top U.S. officials on a tour here, in her meeting Wednesday with Peres “underscored that the United States and Israel are profoundly linked together by our shared values and ideals, and noted that President Obama looks forward to welcoming him for a visit to the White House on June 25th,” said a statement from the White House.
The statement did not make clear the context of Peres’ visit. The Senate has passed a bill awarding Peres the Congressional Gold Medal, one of the highest U.S. civilian honors, and the U.S. House of Representatives is considering the same bill; it’s not yet known if or when the House leadership has scheduled it for a floor vote. President Obama awarded Peres the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012.
Peres, who is 90, ends his term in July.
Rice arrived for a two-day visit as head of the U.S. Israel Consultative Group, which meets regularly “for strategic interagency consultations with senior members of the U.S. and Israeli Governments to discuss a wide range of bilateral and regional security issues,” according to a statement from National Security Council spokesperson Caitlin Hayden.
She also met Wednesday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In a statement, Rice said a focus of that meeting was Iran and the nuclear talks led by the United States.
“On Iran, Ambassador Rice emphasized the critical importance of pursuing a comprehensive solution that assures the international community that Iran’s nuclear program is exclusively peaceful,” a White House statement said “She reiterated that the United States will not allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon, and that diplomacy is the best way to resolve the international community’s concerns peacefully.” The statement said Rice told Netanyahu that “intensive” U.S.-Israel consultations on Iran would continue.
Netanyahu did not issue a statement after the meeting, but his office released an excerpt of his remarks the same day to a delegation of the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces anticipating a “bad” outcome to the Iran talks.
“We think that Iran must not have the capacity to make atomic bombs,” Netanyahu told the FIDF leaders. “Iran today has thousands of centrifuges, thousands of kilograms of enriched uranium to make a bomb. A bad deal would let them keep those capacities. It’s better to have no deal than a bad deal.”
President Obama and other officials have said that it is likely that Iran will emerge from the talks with the capacity to enrich uranium at civilian levels. Netanyahu has repeatedly insisted that Iran must not have any enrichment capability whatsoever.
The delegation includes senior representatives from the Departments of State, Defense and Treasury, and from the intelligence community, according to Hayden. Separately, David Cohen, the top Treasury official handling sanctions on Iran, announced that he too would be in Israel on May 8.
Rice reportedly also will travel to Ramallah on Thursday to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Upon her arrival in Israel late Wednesday morning, Rice tweeted: “Great to be back in Israel, leading USDel to US-Israel Consultative Group.”
It is her first visit to Israel as National Security Advisor; she previously served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
A second tweet read: “Looking forward to robust and intensive consultations. Our security cooperation with Israel has never been stronger.”