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Obama Will Press Bibi on Direct Talks, Says Ambassador Oren

Moving from proximity talks to direct peace talks will be the main issue that U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to discuss in his upcoming meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s ambassador to the U.S. told Haaretz on Friday.

Confirming Oren’s remarks, Daniel Shapiro, the senior director of Middle East and North Africa in the National Security Council, said “a major focus of the discussion will be on progress at the proximity talks and the opportunity to transform them to the direct talks.”

Oren dismissed media reports in Israel that Netanyahu will not meet with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton because she is not involved in making decisions regarding this issue.

“This is clearly incorrect,” Oren said. “She is involved and active on every level.”

“She knows us and knows the problems we are dealing with,” Oren said adding that she contributes positively to the progression of the talks.

There is a possibility that Netanyahu will meet with her the day after he meets President Obama, Oren said.

“She wasn’t supposed to meet with Netanyahu because she is traveling, but the possibility of her meeting with Netanyahu is being looked into. It’s still unclear whether this meeting will happen but we are waiting for an answer,” Oren said.

Netanyahu is due at the White House at 11 A.M. on Tuesday to hold a two-hour meeting with Obama. Immediately afterward the two will hold a joint news conference lasting about a half hour; it will coincide with Israel’s evening news broadcasts. Later in the day Obama will host the Israeli delegation at a dinner.

Netanyahu is also scheduled to meet Vice President Joe Biden and Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

Earlier this week, Netanyahu convened the forum of seven senior ministers for a preparatory discussion of his trip. Four ministers – Avigdor Lieberman, Moshe Ya’alon, Benny Begin and Eli Yishai – object to extending the construction freeze.

A Jerusalem source said the administration has not yet decided which approach to take, increasing the chance that Obama will not demand that Netanyahu present positions on the conflict’s core issues at the talks with the Palestinians, especially the question of borders.

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