(Communicated by the Prime Minister's Media Adviser)
Following are the statements by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the start of their meeting today (Tuesday, 20 November 2012):
Prime Minister Netanyahu: I want to welcome Secretary Clinton once again to Jerusalem. I want to thank President Obama, you and the American government, and the people, for their strong support for Israel in this hour of need. I want to also thank you especially for your support of Iron Dome. It's been saving lives, and we are in a battle to save lives. One of the things that we are doing is trying to resist and counter a terrorist barrage which is aimed directly at our civilians and doing so by minimizing civilian casualties, whereas the terrorist enemies of Israel are doing everything in their power to maximize the number of civilian casualties. Obviously, no country can tolerate a wanton attack on its civilians.
Now if there is a possibility of achieving solution to this problem through diplomatic means, we prefer that, but if not, I'm sure you understand that Israel will have to take whatever action is necessary to defend its people. This is something that I don't have to explain to Americans. I know that President Obama, you and the American people understand that perfectly well, and I thank you once again for your support. Welcome to Jerusalem.
Secretary of State Clinton: Thank you very much, Prime Minister. I look forward to a productive discussion this evening at such a critical moment for Israel and the region.
President Obama asked me to come to Israel with a very clear message: America's commitment to Israel's security is rock solid and unwavering. That is why we believe it is essential to de-escalate the situation in Gaza. The rocket attacks from terrorist organizations inside Gaza on Israeli cities and towns must end and a broader calm restored. The goal must be a durable outcome that promotes regional stability and advances the security and legitimate aspirations of Israelis and Palestinians alike.
President Obama has emphasized these same points in his multiple conversations with President Morsi of Egypt and we appreciate President Morsi's personal leadership and Egypt's efforts thus far. As a regional leader and neighbor, Egypt has the opportunity and responsibility to continue playing a crucial and constructive role in this process. I will carry this message to Cairo tomorrow. I will also be consulting with President Abbas in Ramallah.
Let me also say, to echo the Prime Minister, I am very pleased that the Iron Dome defense system is performing so well. Our partnership and support of this system represents America's enduring commitment to the safety and security of the Israeli people, and to Israel's right to defend itself. But no defense is perfect, and our hearts break for the loss of every civilian, Israeli and Palestinian, and for all those who have been wounded or who are living in fear and danger, I know today was a difficult day, and I offer my deepest condolences to the loved ones of those who were lost and injured.
In the end, there is no substitute for security and for a just and lasting peace, and the current crisis certainly focuses us on the urgency of this broader goal. So in the days ahead, the United States will work with our partners here in Israel and across the region toward an outcome that bolsters security for the people of Israel, improves conditions for the people of Gaza and moves towards a comprehensive peace for all people of the region, and I thank you, Prime Minister, for your hospitality and look forward to our discussion.