Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with President Barack Obama in New York Wednesday morning in what will likely be the prime minister’s last official visit with the president.
In a short press conference meeting before their closed-door meeting, Prime Minister Netanyahu thanked President Obama for the recently approved military aid package as well as the United States’ ongoing support for the State of Israel.
Netanyahu began by stating that he wanted to thank the president “for the Memorandum of Understanding that we signed last week. It greatly enhances Israel’s security. It fortifies the principle that you’ve enunciated many times that Israel should be able to defend itself, by itself, against any threat.” He went on to state, “Second, I want to thank you for the extensive security and intelligence cooperation between our two countries. I don’t think people at large understand the breadth and depth of this cooperation, but I know it. And I want to thank you on behalf of all the people of Israel.” And lastly, he thanked Obama for “the many meetings we’ve had in which we discussed how to confront common challenges and how to seize common opportunities. The greatest challenge is, of course, the unremitting fanaticism. The greatest opportunity is to advance a durable peace. That’s a goal that I, and the people of Israel, will never give up on.”
Prime Minister Netanyahu reiterated that Israel “has no greater friend than the United States of America, and America has no greater friend than Israel.” He went on to state that “Our alliance has grown decade after decade, through successive presidents, a bipartisan Congress, and the overwhelming support of the American people. It’s an unbreakable bond based on common values, buttressed by common interest, and bound by a shared destiny.”
The prime minister finished by thanking the president again “for the opportunity to once again discuss how we can shape that destiny together. And I’d like to add, if I may, one final point. As you conclude your presidency, I know you’re going to be busy with many, many things… Your voice, your influential voice will be heard for many decades. And I know you’ll continue to support Israel’s right to defend itself and its right to thrive as a Jewish state. So I want you to know, Barack, that you’ll always be a welcome guest in Israel.”
In his response, President Obama sent thoughts and support for President Shimon Peres: “I want to start by just sending a message that all of the American people, my entire administration, and me, personally, are thinking about Shimon Peres, a great friend, a hero, and giant in the history of Israel. And we are hopeful that he will have a speedy recovery… I wanted to make sure that I relay my gratitude to him for his friendship and his leadership, and helping to forge a strong U.S.-Israeli bond.
“As Prime Minister Netanyahu mentioned, the bond between the United States and Israel is unbreakable. It is based on common values, family ties, a recognition that a Jewish state of Israel is one of our most important allies, and a guiding principle throughout my presidency, one that I’ve expressed often to the Prime Minister, is that it is important for America’s national security to ensure that we have a safe and secure Israel, one that can defend itself.”
The president addressed last week’s memorandum of understanding: “What it does is provide an assurance and a foundation for the kinds of ongoing military and intelligence cooperation that has been the hallmark of our relationship. It allows, I think, Israeli planners the kind of certainty in a moment where there’s enormous uncertainty in the region. It is a very difficult and dangerous time in the Middle East, and we want to make sure that Israel has the full capabilities it needs in order to keep the Israeli people safe and secure.”
President Obama then addressed developments in the region, speaking of Syria and the peace process with the Palestinians. “This will give us an opportunity to talk about the challenges that arise out of situations like Syria. I’ll also be interested in hearing from the Prime Minister his assessment of conditions within Israel and in the West Bank. Obviously, our hearts go out to those who have been injured, both Israeli and Palestinian. Clearly, there is great danger of not just terrorism, but also flare-ups of violence. We do have concerns around settlement activity, as well. And our hope is that we can continue to be an effective partner with Israel in finding a path to peace.”
The president went on to address the end of his term as president of the U.S. “I’m only going to be President for another few months. The Prime Minister will be there quite a bit longer.” He then again addressed the Palestinians, stating “our hope will be that in these conversations we get a sense of how Israel sees the next few years, what the opportunities are and what the challenges are in order to assure that we keep alive the possibility of a stable, secure Israel at peace with its neighbors, and a Palestinian homeland that meets the aspirations of their people. But obviously, these are challenging times.”
On his administration’s relations with Prime Minister Netanyahu, Obama said: “One thing I can say about Prime Minister Netanyahu is he has always been candid with us, and his team has cooperated very effectively with ours. We very much appreciate it…And I guarantee you that I will visit Israel often, because it is a beautiful country with beautiful people…”
Amir Tsarfati, a Jewish Christian, is the founder and president of Behold Israel, a news site to correct the scarcity in trustworthy reportage on issues and events impacting Israel, and to resolve the uncertainty about who or what to believe.