President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu speak to the press before a bilateral meeting to discuss progress in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, developments in Iran, and other regional priorities.
Remarks by President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu before Bilateral Meeting
2:04 P.M. EST
OBAMA: Well, it’s a pleasure to welcome once again Prime Minister Netanyahu to the Oval Office. There’s nobody I’ve met with more or consulted with more than Bibi. And it’s a testimony to the incredible bond between our two nations. I’ve said before and I will repeat, we do not have a closer friend or ally than Israel and the bond between our two countries and our two peoples in unbreakable.
And that’s the reason why on a whole spectrum of issues we consult closely; we have the kind of military, intelligence and security cooperation that is unprecedented. And there is a strong bipartisan commitment in this country to make sure that Israel’s security is preserved in any contingency.
We’re going to have a wide range of issues, obviously, to discuss given what’s happening on the world stage and the Middle East, in particular. So we’ll spend some time discussing the situation in Syria and the need for us to not only find a political solution to the tragic situation there, but also to address growing extremism inside of Syria, the spillover effects on Lebanon and Jordan, in particular.
We’ll have an opportunity to discuss the work that we do in counterterrorism and the work that we are going to be continuing to do to try to stabilize an environment that has become very dangerous in many respects.
We’ll also have a chance to talk about Egypt, a country that obviously is of critical importance and where we have the opportunity, I think, to move beyond recent events over the last several years to a point in which once again there is a legitimate path towards political transition inside of Egypt. And that’s important to Israel’s security as well as to U.S. security.
We’re going to be talking about Iran and my absolute commitment to make sure that Iran does not have a nuclear weapon — something that I know the Prime Minister feels very deeply about. And we will discuss how the Joint Plan of Action that is currently in place can potentially at least lead to a solution that ensures that Iran is not developing a nuclear weapon.
And we’ll spend time talking about the prospects of peace between Israelis and Palestinians. I want to commend publicly the efforts that Prime Minister Netanyahu had made in very lengthy and painstaking negotiations with my Secretary of State, John Kerry, Abu Mazen. They are tough negotiations. The issues are profound. Obviously if they were easy they would have been resolved many years ago. But I think that Prime Minister Netanyahu has approached these negotiations with a level of seriousness and commitment that reflects his leadership and the desire for the Israeli people for peace.
It’s my belief that ultimately it is still possible to create two states, a Jewish state of Israel and a state of Palestine in which people are living side by side in peace and security. But it’s difficult and it requires compromise on all sides. And I just want to publicly again commend the Prime Minister for the seriousness with which he’s taken these discussions.
The timeframe that we have set up for completing these negotiations is coming near and some tough decisions are going to have to be made. But I know that, regardless of the outcome, the Prime Minister will make those decisions based on his absolute commitment to Israel’s security and his recognition that ultimately Israel’s security will be enhanced by peace with his neighbors.
So, Mr. Prime Minister, I want to welcome you again, and thank you again for your leadership and your friendship with the American people.
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Thank you, Mr. President.
Mr. President, I appreciate the opportunity to meet with you today, especially since I know you’ve got a few other pressing matters on your plate. During the five years of your presidency, you and I, and Israel and the United States have worked very closely on critically important issues — security, intelligence-sharing, missile defense — and we’re deeply grateful for that.
I look forward to working closely with you in the years ahead to address the main challenges that confront both our countries, and of these, the greatest challenge, undoubtedly, is to prevent Iran from acquiring the capacity to make nuclear weapons. I think that goal can be achieved if Iran is prevented from enriching uranium and dismantles fully its military nuclear installations.