U.S. lawmakers Royce and Engel talk Iran, Syria with Netanyahu


WASHINGTON (JTA) — Now is the time to step up pressure on Iran, the head of the House Foreign Affairs Committee said in Jerusalem.

Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), the committee chairman, made his remarks Wednesday following a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Royce and Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), the committee’s ranking member, are heading a bipartisan delegation of House of Representatives members traveling to Israel during the recess.

Royce and Engel discussed with Netanyahu the potential Iranian threat and instability in Syria.

“As Iran’s nuclear program advances, now is the time to step up the pressure on the Iranian regime,” Royce said in a 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 also have demanded 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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