Obama to Netanyahu: “Israel Has an Obligation to Protect Itself”

“Be strong and of good courage, fear not, nor be affrighted at them; for the LORD thy God, He it is that doth go with thee; He will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.” (Deuteronomy 31:6)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with US President Barack Obama at the White House earlier today, in which they primarily discussed Israel’s security. During the meeting with Netanyahu, Obama stated that Israel’s security was a primary focus for his administration.

“As I’ve said repeatedly, the security of Israel is one of my top foreign policy priorities and that has expressed itself not only in words but in deeds,” Obama stressed. “We have closer military intelligence cooperation than any two administrations in history.”

“The military assistance that we provide we consider not only an important part of our obligation to the security of the state of Israel but also an important part of US security infrastructure in the region as we make sure that one of our closest allies can not only protect itself but can also work with us in deterring terrorism and other security threats,” Obama added.

Prime Minister Netanyahu also expressed his sense of a strong bond between the United States and Israel. “We’re with each other in more ways than one and I want to thank you for this opportunity to strengthen our friendship which is strong and strengthen our alliance which is strong,” Netanyahu told Obama.

President Obama stated that he would primarily discuss renewing the memorandum of understanding between the United States and Israel, which stipulates a set annual amount of US foreign aid to Israel. During the current ten year arrangement, the US has provided approximately $3.1 billion annually in foreign aid to Israel.

“A lot of our time will be spent on the memorandum of understanding that we can potentially negotiate,”  Obama explained. “It will be expiring in a couple of years but we want to get a head start on that to make sure that both the United States and Israel can plan effectively for our defense needs going forward.

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Netanyahu expressed strong gratitude to Obama for the military aid provided to Israel under his administration.” I want to thank you for your commitment to further bolstering Israel’s security in the memorandum of understanding that we’re discussing,” Netanyahu said to Obama. “Israel has shouldered a tremendous defense budget over the years and we’ve done it with the generous assistance of the United States of America.”

President Obama also touched on the Iran nuclear agreement, an issue in which the Obama Administration and Netanyahu find themselves at odds with one another. However, Obama argued that there were still mutual interests regarding Iran.

“It’s no secret that the Prime Minister and I have had a strong disagreement on this narrow issue,” said Obama. “But we don’t have a disagreement on the need to making sure that Iran does not get a nuclear weapon and we don’t have a disagreement about the importance of us blunting destabilizing activities of Iran that may be taking place.”

Obama also took the opportunity to express condemnation of the recent wave of terrorist attacks against Israelis as well as support for Israel’s right of self defense. “I want to be very clear that we condemn in the strongest terms Palestinian violence against innocent Israeli citizens,” Obama stressed. “And I want to repeat once again it is my strong belief that Israel has not just the right but the obligation to protect itself.”

“I also will discuss with the Prime Minister his thoughts on how we can lower the temperature between Israelis and Palestinians, how we can get back on the path towards peace and how we can make sure that legitimate Palestinian aspirations are back through a political process even as we make sure that Israel is able to secure itself,” continued Obama.

On that note, Prime Minister Netanyahu reiterated his support and vision for a two-state solution. “I want to make it clear that we have not given up our hope for peace,” Netanyahu stated. “We’ll never give up our hope for peace and I remain committed to a vision of peace of two states for two peoples, a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes a Jewish state.”

The meeting was the first time President Obama has met with Prime Minister Netanyahu since his reelection this past year. Accepting an invitation from Speaker of the House John Boehner, Netanyahu addressed the US Congress to speak out against the nuclear deal that was being negotiated with Iran. The Obama Administration declined to meet with Netanyahu then, arguing that meeting with a sitting Israeli Prime Minister immediately preceding an elections would be undermining a free and fair democratic election process in Israel.