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Netanyahu: Israel is serious about peace

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Despite that tension, Netanyahu compounded the strained relations with Israel's all-important ally by publicly meeting with Christian-right evangelicals like Jerry Falwell – prominent opponents of Israeli concessions to the Palestinians – on a US visit in 1998 aimed at advancing the peace process.

The contrast in his approach to relations with the Obama administration has been telling. Recognizing that in order to confront Iran he cannot afford another rift with the White House, he has stressed his desire to "engage" with new ideas. And though he doesn't see eye to eye with Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on the urgency of resolving the Palestinian conflict, Netanyahu has sought to smooth over those differences by stressing the points in common with the Obama administration.

But Netanyahu comes into office at a time when Iran's growing regional influence and nuclear aspirations figure just as high on Israel's regional agenda – if not higher than – Arab-Israeli peace.

Identifying the spread of "extremist Islam" as the source of Israel's security "crisis," Netanyahu addressed Iran directly in his speech Tuesday: "We won't let any person or state to put a question mark over our existence."

Zalman Shoval, a former Israeli ambassador to the US and foreign policy adviser to Netanyahu, argues that containing Iran has become a precondition for progress on the peace process.

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