US President Barack Obama and President Shimon Peres, today (Wednesday, 20 March 2013), held a diplomatic working meeting at the President's Residence in Jerusalem following the welcoming reception. The majority of the bilateral meeting was held with only President Obama, US Secretary of State John Kerry, National Security Adviser Thomas E. Donilon, President Peres, his foreign policy adviser Nadav Tamir and his special adviser Avi Gill.
The meeting began with a discussion on the peace process with the Palestinians and President Peres stressed Israel's commitment to the principle of two states for two peoples and the two discussed ways to restart the negotiations. President Peres told President Obama that there is positive momentum with regards to peace talks following the elections in Israel and that President Obama's visit should be used to continue that momentum and restart negotiations. President Peres updated President Obama on his conversations with the leaders of the Palestinian Authority and other Arabs leader and that he believes any disagreements can be overcome.
On the Iranian nuclear threat the two discussed ways to further strengthen the cooperation between the two countries and prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon. President Peres stressed again the importance of monitoring the means of delivery and the uranium enrichment as well as the importance of human rights in Iran. The issue of Syria's chemical weapons was also discussed and President Peres reaffirmed the importance of ensuring chemical weapons are not used and do not fall into terrorist hands.
Before the meeting President Obama was welcomed by singing children, planted a tree in the garden of the residence which was flown over from the United States and signed the official guestbook. In the guest book President Obama wrote, 'It is a great honor to visit Israel and reaffirm years of friendship between our countries and our people. It is also my honor to be hosted by President Peres who has contributed to every aspect of Israeli society.'
Following the meeting the two presidents delivered joint statements to the press. President Peres began and said, "President Obama, It is a great privilege for me and for the people of Israel to host you here in Jerusalem. It was a pleasure to sit with a true friend like you. After the meeting we just had, I am even more confident that your vision can transform the Middle East. Your vision is doable. You arrived here already with an impressive record of answering our needs, particularly and unforgettably in the domain of security. I want to thank you personally, my dear friend, for the long days and for the sleepless nights which you spend caring for our country, for our future."
President Peres continued and addressed the Iranian threat said, "We live in an age that is both global and domestic. Interests may divide people but vision unites them. There is no real division between us. There is a common vision uniting us. To confront the dangers. To bring peace closer. The greatest danger is a nuclear Iran. So you said, so you are acting. We trust your policy which calls to first try non-military means with a clear statement that all other options remain on the table. You have made it clear that your intention is not to contain but to prevent."
On the importance of negotiations with the Palestinians, the threat of terror and the bloodshed in Syria, President Peres said, "We are trying, together, to restart the negotiations with the Palestinians. We have already agreed that the goal is a two state solution. There is no better one and more doable one. We consider the President of the Palestinian Authority, Abu Mazen, as our partner in the effort to stop terror and make peace. Hamas remains a terror organization that targets innocent civilians. On our northern border Iran's proxy, Hezbollah, continues to stockpile arms and threaten our civilians while they target innocent people across the world. Hezbollah is destroying Lebanon and supporting the brutal massacre of the Syrian people by President Assad. Fortunately the Syrian nuclear capability was destroyed but unfortunately the arsenal of chemical weapons remains. We cannot allow for those weapons to fall into terrorist hands. It could lead to an epic tragedy. There is an attempt to bring spring to the Arab world. This is an Arab choice, an Arab initiative. But it may bring as well peace to the region, freedom to the people and economic growth to the Arab states. If realized, it can lead to a better tomorrow. We pray it will become a reality."
President Peres concluded by saying, "I believe the real division is between skeptics and those who believe in peace. Your voice will encourage belief. You came to us with a clear message that no-one should let skepticism win the day, a vision that says clearly that peace is not only a wish but a possibility. I fully support your call. There is no other way to make the future better. There is no better leader to make it possible. Your visit is a historic step in that direction. We shall journey with you."
President Obama's Speech:
President Obama thanked President Peres and said, "Thank you so much. Well, thank you, President Peres, for your very generous words and your warm welcome. It is wonderful to be here once again. I first visited you when I was still a senator and had the opportunity to visit the lovely garden, and for me to be able to bring a tree from the United States that will find a home in that garden I think is symbolic of not only the friendship between our two nations, but between the two of us personally.
Mr. President, you once remarked that a prime minister’s job is to rule, a president’s job is to charm. Well, as with all our visits together, I have once again succumbed to your charms and I'm grateful to your hospitality. It is wonderful to be back in Jerusalem, the Eternal City. And I’m pleased to begin my visit with a son of Israel who’s devoted his life to keeping Israel strong and sustaining the bonds between our two nations. President Peres knows that this is a work of generations. Just as he joined the struggle for Israeli independence in his early 20s, he’s always looking ahead, connecting with young people. And I’m especially grateful for the time he allowed me to share with those extraordinary Israeli boys and girls.
Their dreams are much the same as children everywhere. In another sense, though, their lives reflect the difficult realities that Israelis face every single day. They want to be safe. They want to be free from rockets that hit their homes or their schools. They want a world where science and technology is created to build and not destroy. They want to live in peace, free from terror and threats that are so often directed at the Israeli people. That’s the future that they deserve. That’s the vision that is shared by both our nations. And that is Shimon Peres's life work.
And, Mr. President, Michelle and I have such fond memories of your visit to the White House last spring, when I was honored to present you with America's highest civilian honor -- our Medal of Freedom. And that medal was a tribute to your extraordinary life, in which you have held virtually every position in the Israeli government.
So today was another opportunity for me to benefit from the President’s perspective on a whole range of topics -- from the historic changes that are taking place across the region to the perils of a nuclear-armed Iran, to the imperatives of peace between Israelis and Palestinians, to the promise of our digital age.
And I should note that one of the advantages of talking to President Peres is not only does he have astonishing vision, but he’s also a pretty practical-minded politician and consistently has good advice in terms of how we can approach many of these problems.
I reaffirmed to President Peres, as I will throughout my visit, that in this work, the State of Israel will have no greater friend than the United States. And the work we do in our time will make it more likely that the children that we saw today alongside children from throughout the region have the opportunity for security and peace and prosperity.
This obligation to future generations I think was well symbolized by the tree planting that we started our meeting with. The Talmud recounts the story of Honi, the miracle worker, who saw a man planting a carob tree. And he asked the man, how long before this tree yields fruit? To which the man responded, 'Seventy years.' And so Honi asked, 'Are you sure you'll be alive in another 70 years to see it?' And the man replied, 'When I came into the world, I found carob trees. As my forefathers planted for me, so will I plant for my children.'
President Peres I think understands that story well. And so we want to all thank you for all the seeds you’ve planted -- the seeds of progress, the seeds of security, the seeds of peace -- all the seeds that have helped not only Israel grow but also the relationship between our two nations grow. And I believe that if we tend to them, if we nurture them, they will yield fruit in every hill and valley of this land, not only for the children we met today but for Israelis, for Palestinians, for Arabs across the region. That's not only good for the children of this region, but it’s good for my children and the children of America.
I deeply believe that. And I couldn't ask for a more wise or more thoughtful partner in that process. I'm very grateful for you hospitality, and I look forward to our continued work in the future."