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Netanyahu says US alliance still strong after dispute on Iran

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke via a satellite television feed during the American Israel Public Affairs Committee 2016 policy conference at the Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday.SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

WASHINGTON — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told American Jewish leaders that ties with the United States survived his feud with President Obama in which the Israeli leader joined with Republicans in an unsuccessful effort to block the Iran nuclear deal.

Netanyahu also blamed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for burying peace efforts and called for greater international cooperation in fighting terrorism after Tuesday’s attacks in Brussels that killed at least 31 people.

“I believe those who supported the nuclear deal and those who opposed it can at the very least work together to stop Iran’s aggression and terror and hold Iran accountable for its transgressions,” Netanyahu, 66, said on a video hookup from Jerusalem to the annual Washington conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

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Saying that Iran funds terrorist organizations around the world, including Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement and Palestinian groups inside Israel, Netanyahu said the Islamic Republic “remains fully committed to genocide — our genocide.”

After last year’s open dispute with Obama, Netanyahu told AIPAC, which joined him in fighting the Iran deal, that he wanted to “take this opportunity once again to thank President Obama for his support, including for ballistic missile defense.”

Netanyahu and Obama haven’t entirely buried the hatchet since they fought publicly over the US-backed international deal with Iran to halt its nuclear weapons program in return for the lifting of economic sanctions. White House aides said the Israeli leader didn’t inform them before telling the media that he’d canceled plans to come to Washington to meet Obama and then attend the AIPAC conference in person.

Vice President Joe Biden, who met with Netanyahu and Abbas two weeks ago on a Middle East trip, expressed disappointment in his own address to AIPAC on Sunday that there was “no political will” to hold talks on resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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On peace efforts, Netanyahu repeated the assertion he has made for years: that he’s ready for talks “immediately, without preconditions, anytime, anywhere.”

He appealed to the United States to block any UN-imposed peace settlement because it would be “stacked against us” and would suggest to Palestinians that they can “stab their way to a state.”

Responding to Tuesday’s bombings in Belgium, Netanyahu said: “The chain of attacks from Paris to San Bernardino, from Istanbul to the Ivory Coast, and now to Brussels, and the daily attacks on Israel, this is one continuous assault on all of us. In all these cases, the terrorists have no resolvable grievances.”

All the US presidential candidates except for Bernie Sanders spoke to the conference on Monday, saying they would try to renew peace efforts, while pledging special support for Israel.

“The Palestinians must come to the table knowing that the bond between the United States and Israel is unbreakable,” Republican contender Donald Trump told the cheering crowd. He also said Obama “may be the worst thing ever to happen to Israel.”

Before Netanyahu spoke, AIPAC leaders read a message condemning attacks on Obama “from our stage” in a clear disavowal of Trump’s condemnation of the Democratic president.