WASHINGTON (JTA) – Israel is the "master of its fate" and reserves the right to defend itself against Iran, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told President Obama.
"When it comes to Israel’s security, Israel has the right, the sovereign right to make its own decisions," Netanyahu told Obama in a photo op in the White House office on Monday before they began a meeting.
Much of the discussion, both leaders said, would focus on Iran and its suspected nuclear weapons program. Israeli leaders have suggested that Israel may strike before year’s end to disrupt the program.
"I believe that’s why you appreciate, Mr. President, that Israel must reserve the right to defend itself," Netanyahu said. "After all, that’s the very purpose of the Jewish state, to restore to the Jewish people control over our destiny. That’s why my supreme responsibility as prime minister of Israel is to ensure that Israel remains master of its fate."
Obama stressed that he still favored heading off the nuclear program through diplomatic means, including sanctions.
"I know both the prime minister and I prefer to resolve this diplomatically," the U.S. leader said. "We understand the cost of any military options."
Netanyahu appeared to be reassured by Obama’s tough posture toward Iran, most recently in a speech Sunday to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee annual poilcy forum in which Obama said that military action remained an option and that he would not settle for containing a nuclear Iran. "
"If there’s one thing that stands out clearly in the Middle East today, it is that Israel and America stand together," Netanyahu said.
Netanyahu will be speaking before the AIPAC conference later in the day.