JERUSALEM (JTA) — President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu conveyed broad consensus on Israel’s top security priorities following a meeting in Jerusalem.
In statements presented Wednesday evening at the prime minister’s residence in Jerusalem, Obama and Netanyahu emphasized the strength of the U.S.-Israel alliance. Both leaders said that Iran cannot be allowed to obtain a nuclear weapon, that Israel should achieve peace with the Palestinians and that the bloodshed in Syria’s civil war must end.
“I know you appreciate that Israel will never cede the right to defend itself to others, even its greatest friends, and Israel has no better friend than the United States,” Netanyahu said. “I look forward to continuing to work with you.”
On Iran, Netanyahu said that “Israel must be able to defend itself, by itself, against any threat” — a statement he has made several times.
Obama, on the first day of his first presidential trip to Israel, reiterated that the United States will not allow Iran to achieve nuclear capability.
“A nuclear-armed Iran would be a threat to the region, a threat to the world and potentially an existential threat to Israel,” Obama said. “Our policy is to prevent Iran from having a nuclear weapon.”
Obama said multiple times that “we prefer to resolve this diplomatically” but that “all options are on the table.”
While Netanyahu began his statement speaking about Iran, Obama started by saying that he is working to extend U.S. military assistance to Israel, including funding the Iron Dome missile defense system.
Obama then spoke of the peace process, noting that he would discuss more during his speech to the Israeli public on Thursday.
“A central element of a lasting peace is a strong and secure Jewish state where Israeli security needs are met alongside a sovereign and independent Palestinian state,” Obama said. “We’ll continue to look for steps that Israelis and Palestinians can take to build confidence.”
Netanyahu, who leads a new coalition government, said Israel remained committed to the two-state solution.
“Let me be clear, Israel remains fully committed to peace and the solution of two states for two peoples,” he said. “We extend our hand in friendship and peace to the Palestinian people.”
Earlier in the day, Obama viewed the Iron Dome system and met with Israeli President Shimon Peres.
On the remainder of the trip, which ends Friday, Obama will visit Israeli cultural sites and speak to a crowd of Israeli citizens, as well as go to Ramallah to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. He then will proceed to Jordan and a meeting with King Abdullah II.