PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, it’s a pleasure to welcome Prime Minister
Netanyahu back to the Oval Office. I think I've had the pleasure of
hosting him more often than just about any other world leader, and
hopefully this will provide just some small measure of repayment for the
wonderful visit that I had in Israel this spring. And I want to thank
him and his family and his entire team for the tremendous hospitality
that we had when we were there.
The Prime Minister and I were
just talking about the fact these are hectic times, and nowhere is that
more true, obviously, than in the Middle East. And so we had an
opportunity for a wide-ranging discussion about a range of issues.
commended him for entering into good-faith negotiations with the
Palestinian Authority in discussing how we can resolve what has been,
obviously, one of the biggest challenges for a very long time in the
region. And both Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas have
assigned outstanding negotiators. They have been engaging in serious
conversations. And our goal continues to be to help facilitate - not
dictate, but facilitate - the kinds of genuine negotiations that will
result in two states living side-by-side in peace and security.
we have a limited amount of time to achieve that goal, and I appreciate
the Prime Minister’s courage in being willing to step forward on behalf
of that goal.
We had an opportunity to discuss the situation in
Syria. Obviously, we have a broad set of strategic concerns in Syria.
We are both pleased that there is the possibility of finally getting
chemical weapons stockpiles out of Syria. But I think we both share a
deep concern that we have to be able to verify and enforce what has now
been agreed to at the United Nations. Chemical weapons inside of Syria
obviously have threatened Syrian civilians, but over the long term also
pose a threat to Israel. And we want to make sure that we get those
indiscriminate, horrible weapons out of there.
And so we are
consulting with the international community on these issues, and I
shared with the Prime Minister our belief that we have to move with
speed and dispatch in actually making sure that the agreement that was
arrived at in the United Nations is followed through on.
addition, we have the larger question of how to deal with the civil war
that's taking place in Syria. And given Israel’s significant interest in
the spillover effects of activities there, we will be consulting very
closely with them.
We had an opportunity to discuss Egypt, and I
shared with him what I said at the United Nations just a week ago,
which is that we continue to have concerns about what has happened in
Egypt, but we also are committed to a constructive relationship with
Egypt, in part because of the important role that the Camp David Accords
and the Egypt-Israeli peace serve not only for the stability and
security of both those countries, but also for security in the region
and U.S. security.
So we will continue to work with the Egyptian
government, although urging them and pushing them in a direction that
is more inclusive and that meets the basic goals of those who originally
sought for more freedom and more democracy in that country.
we had an opportunity, obviously, to discuss Iran. Both the Prime
Minister and I agree, since I came into office, that it is imperative
that Iran not possess a nuclear weapon. That is important for American
security; it is important for Israeli security; it’s important for world
security, because we do not want to trigger a nuclear arms race in the
most volatile region in the world. And given the statements and actions
from the Iranian regime in the past - the threats against Israel, the
acts against Israel - it is absolutely clear that words are not
sufficient, that we have to have actions that give the international
community confidence that, in fact, they are meeting their international
obligations fully, and that they are not in a position to have a
What I also shared with the Prime Minister is
that, because of the extraordinary sanctions that we have been able to
put in place over the last several years, the Iranians are now prepared,
it appears, to negotiate. We have to test diplomacy. We have to see if,
in fact, they are serious about their willingness to abide by
international norms and international law and international requirements
and resolutions. And we in good faith will approach them, indicating
that it is our preference to resolve these issues diplomatically.
we enter into these negotiations very clear-eyed. They will not be
easy. And anything that we do will require the highest standards of
verification in order for us to provide the sort of sanctions relief
that I think they are looking for.
So we will be in close
consultation with Israel and our other friends and allies in the region
during this process, and our hope is that we can resolve this
diplomatically. But as President of the United States, I've said before
and I will repeat that we take no options off the table, including
military options, in terms of making sure that we do not have nuclear
weapons in Iran that would destabilize the region and potentially
threaten the United States of America.
In all of this, our
unshakeable bond with the Israeli people is stronger than ever. Our
commitment to Israel's security is stronger than ever. And we are very
much looking forward to continuing to work with our friends in Israel to
make sure that the U.S. security interests are met, Israel's security
interests are met, but hopefully that we can also bring about greater
peace and greater stability in a region that has been racked with
violence and tensions for far too long.
And I appreciate the
Prime Minister's views. He is always candid, and we’re always able to
have not only a good working relationship at the prime ministerial
level, but also because of the outstanding work that our staffs do.
So, Mr. Prime Minister, welcome.
MINISTER NETANYAHU: Mr. President, thank you for welcoming me and my
delegation on what I know is a very busy day for you in Washington
today. There are many things on your plate.
But I know that you
know and the American people know that there is no better ally - more
reliable, more stable, more democratic - other than Israel in a very
raw, dangerous place. So I welcome the opportunity that we're having to
discuss how we work closely together to address the enormous challenges
that face both of us. And I think of those, the most important challenge
is preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
appreciate deeply the fact that you have made clear that you remain
committed to this goal. I also appreciate the statement you made that
Iran's conciliatory words have to be matched by real actions -
transparent, verifiable, meaningful actions.
Iran is committed
to Israel's destruction. So for Israel, the ultimate test of a future
agreement with Iran is whether or not Iran dismantles its military
nuclear program. We have a saying in Hebrew, we call it "mivchan hatotza’a"
- you would say it in English, what's the bottom line? And the bottom
line, again, is that Iran fully dismantles its military nuclear program.
In this regard, I want to express my appreciation to you for
the enormous work that’s been done to have a sanctions regime in place
to thwart Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons. I believe that it's the
combination of a credible military threat and the pressure of those
sanctions that has brought Iran to the negotiating table.
believe that if diplomacy is to work, those pressures must be kept in
place. And I think that they should not be lessened until there is
verifiable success. And, in fact, it is Israel’s firm belief that if
Iran continues to advance its nuclear program during negotiations, the
sanctions should be strengthened. It’s the combination, I believe, that
has guided your policy and our policy so far, that is good credible
military threat and strong sanctions I think is still the only formula
that can get a peaceful resolution of this problem.
President, we discussed many of these, but I want to use this
opportunity to thank you, Secretary of State Kerry and others in your
administration for helping to advance peace between Israel and the
Palestinians. I remain committed to that peace. And I hope that our
efforts - our common efforts - would lead to a secure and lasting peace.
We know that for peace to endure, it must be based on Israel’s
capacity to defend itself, by itself. And I hope that we can achieve an
historic transformation that will give a better future for us and our
Palestinian neighbors, and, who knows, one day with our other neighbors
So I want to thank you again for your hospitality, for your efforts, and it’s very, very good to see you again.