President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet Monday with the major topics expected to be a potential Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement and international efforts to freeze Iran’s nuclear program.
The leaders will meet on the sidelines of the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee policy conference in Washington.
Ahead of the meeting, Obama had some tough words for the Israeli leader, saying that if Netanyhau “does not believe that a peace deal with the Palestinians is the right thing to do for Israel, then he needs to articulate an alternative approach," Bloomberg News reported.
Before leaving for the United States, Netanyahu said the two leaders would discuss the Iranian issue and the diplomatic process for mapping out a peace agreement, but said he'd be "steadfast" in defending Israel.
“I will stand steadfast on the State of Israel’s vital interests, especially the security of Israel’s citizens," he said.
Netanyahu has for years appealed to the U.S. and other allies to stop Iran’s purported efforts to build a nuclear weapon -- arguing that achieving that goal is within the grasps of the neighboring, rival country.
Iran has agreed to a deal, opposed by Netanyahu, to freeze its nuclear program in exchange for some easing of international sanctions.
Republicans have led a congressional effort to enact more sanctions -- against the wishes of the Obama administration -- should Iran fail to fulfill its end of the deal.
AIPAC, the powerful pro-Israel lobby group, had supported the sanctions but now opposes them.
The group recently backed efforts by New Jersey Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, to halt the largely GOP Senate effort, saying the timing isn’t right for the upper chamber to vote on the sanctions. The bipartisan bill is co-sponsored by Menendez.
Netanyahu is also scheduled to meet this week with Secretary of State John Kerry and congressional leaders and deliver the AIPAC keynote address Tuesday.
Obama is expected to ask Netanyahu to agree to a framework for the so-called “final status” peace agreement.
Kerry has set a goal of April 29 for getting the sides to agree on the final deal, after getting them back to the negotiating table this past summer. However, the Obama administration says such an agreement could take nine more months.
Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Danon told Fox News on Sunday that Netanyahu is indeed interested in negotiating and “going forward.”
But Palestinian leaders will have to make concessions, too, including recognizing Israel as a Jewish state, Danon said.
Obama is reportedly scheduled to make a similar pitch later this month to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.