President Shimon Peres met on Tuesday at his Jerusalem Residence with a delegation of senior Republicans from the United States Congress, led by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.
Cantor opened the meeting by telling President Peres that the delegation had come to Israel to show the strength of American support for Israel and express the support of congress for Israel's position.
President Peres addressed the resumption of peace talks with the Palestinian Authority and the Iranian nuclear program in his opening remarks, telling the Republicans, "You came to Israel at a time when we must make tough decisions. Your presence here is important for us. The United States has both Democrats and Republicans but when it comes to Israel support is bipartisan. Peace between Israel and the Palestinians is not easy for either side – there is a long history and differences in expectation, but the moment requires difficult decision that will shape our future."
Peres thanked the congressmen and women for the recent decision to toughen the sanctions against Iran's nuclear program.
"The U.S. Congress has taken a strong stance with regards to Iran – the sanctions are important for the whole world in the struggle against Iran becoming a nuclear armed state and a center for terror. On behalf of the State of Israel, thank you – the support of the United States strengthens Israel on its path for peace."
Several weeks ago, the House of Representatives, with overwhelming bipartisan support, passed a bill by a majority of 400 to 20 tightening U.S. sanctions on Iran's petroleum sector.
The measure would subject more goods and services to sanctions, in addition to authorizing the president to impose penalties on foreign entities that maintain commercial ties with Iran.
Iran’s new president Hassan Rouhani said last week that Iran was ready for "serious" talks on its nuclear program without delay and that U.S. calls for tougher sanctions showed a lack of understanding.
"As the president of the Islamic republic, I am announcing that there is the political will to solve this issue and also take into consideration the concerns of the other sides," he said.
"We are the people of interaction and talks, with seriousness and without wasting time, if the other sides are ready."
The United States responded to Rouhani by saying that his inauguration was a chance for Iran to move quickly to resolve concerns about its nuclear program, but stressed the U.S. wants to see actions from Tehran.
Meeting last week with a delegation of pro-Israel activists headed by U.S. Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu warned that Iran’s drive to achieve nuclear weapons has not only not slowed down, but, in fact, has even increased.
"I know that some place their hopes on Iran's new president. He knows how to exploit this and yesterday he called for more talks. Of course he wants more talks. He wants to talk and talk and talk. And while everybody is busy talking to him, he'll be busy enriching uranium. The centrifuges will keep on spinning,” said Netanyahu.
“This isn't a secret. The new Iranian president boasts that that is his strategy. He says, 'I talk and I smile and I enrich uranium'. This is unfortunately going on as we speak,” he added.