President Obama said that “clearly, there is great danger of not just terrorism, but also flare-ups of violence” in Israel and in the West Bank before his closed-door meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the sidelines of the United Nations today.
Netanyahu thanked Obama for a Memorandum of Understanding the two countries signed last week, which “fortifies the principle that you’ve enunciated many times that Israel should be able to defend itself, by itself, against any threat.”
“Secondly, 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,” he said.
“Third, I want to thank you 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 global peace. That’s a goal that I and the people of Israel will never give up on.”
Netanyahu stressed that there is no greater friendship than that between America and Israel, and “our alliance has grown decade after decade, through successive presidents.”
“As you conclude your presidency, I know you’re going to be busy with many, many things, much more than improving what I hear is a terrific golf game,” the prime minister continued. “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.”
Netanyahu added to Obama, with whom he’s shared some tense moments over the years, that his home is next to “a terrific golf course.”
“We’ll set up a tee time,” Obama quipped.
The president called it “important for America’s national security to ensure that we have a safe and secure Israel, one that can defend itself.”
“I’ll also be interested in hearing from the prime minister his assessment of conditions within Israel and in the West Bank,” Obama said. “Obviously, our hearts go out to those who have been injured, both Israeli and Palestinian.”
In addition to the potential for violence, he said, “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. Obviously, I’m only going to be president for another few months. The prime minister will be there quite a bit longer. And 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.”
Obama noted “these are challenging times,” but Netanyahu “has always been candid with us, and his team has cooperated very effectively with ours.”
“We very much appreciate it,” he added. “And I guarantee you that I will visit Israel often, because it is a beautiful country with beautiful people.”