Obama: Netanyahu dispute substantive, not personal

WASHINGTON (AFP) - US President Barack Obama said Tuesday that his disagreement with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over how to pursue a Middle East peace deal was substantive, not personal.

Netanyahu's declaration just ahead of his latest election victory that he opposes the creation of a Palestinian state angered the White House, which is still seeking a "two state" solution to the conflict.

The Israeli leader has since sought to qualify his remarks, but Obama said they revealed a real difference in strategy between the normally close allies that would have to be overcome.

"I have a very business-like relationship with the prime minister," Obama told reporters at a joint White House news conference with Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani.

"He's representing his country's interests the way he thinks he needs to, and I'm doing the same. So the issue is not a matter of relations between leaders.

"The issue is a very clear, substantive challenge. We believe that two states is the best path forward for Israel's security, for Palestinian aspirations and for regional stability.

"That's our view and that continues to be our view. And Prime Minister Netanyahu has a different approach."

Obama said the dispute would not be solved by him and Netanyahu putting aside any personal rivalry to sit down and "sing kumbaya," but would be a matter of political negotiation.

"This is a matter of figuring out how we get through a knotty policy difference that has great consequences for both countries and the region," he said.

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