President Obama had some tough talk for Iran in his first visit to Israel. Seeking to reassure the United States’ primary ally in the Middle East, President Obama today told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that his administration remains committed to doing “what is necessary” to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
“We do not have a policy of containment when it comes to a nuclear Iran. Our policy is to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon,” Obama told reporters at a joint press conference after a series of closed-door meetings with Israeli leaders. “The United States will continue to consult closely with Israel on next steps. And I will repeat, all options are on the table,” he said.
Obama and Netanyahu Friendly
President Obama appeared to be in high spirits as he stepped onto the tarmac at Ben Gurion airport. “The United States is proud to stand with you as your strongest ally and your greatest friend,” Obama said in his first words after arriving in Tel Aviv.
Give President Obama points for his out-going personality and wit. He appeared genuine and resolute in his public appearances. He seemed to be friendly and personal in private moments. Yes, there were protesters and even a few hecklers. But the president handled them with grace and with respect.
The U.S. president and Israeli prime minister have had a difficult relationship during the president’s first term, but you would not know it by the way they joked and interacted with one another. In fact, Netanyahu praised President Obama as the president who had most fully recognized Israel’s rights as a sovereign nation to defend itself. “Thank you for standing by Israel at this time of historic change in the Middle East,” Netanyahu said. “Thank you for unequivocally affirming Israel’s sovereign right to defend itself against any threat.”
Netanyahu has been campaigning on the world stage for support against Iranian nuclear weapons. He warned the U.N. in September of 2012 that Iran was in the final stages of having nuclear weapons, weapons that could strike Israel within about 12 minutes of being launched. Netanyahu again warned of “Iran’s relentless pursuit toward nuclear weapons.” The Israeli prime minister praised Obama for mobilizing the international community and for efforts with diplomacy and sanctions. He was, however firm in his assessment that such efforts “must be augmented by clear and credible threat of military action.”
In a poignant moment, Netanyahu recalled a Jewish people that two generations ago were powerless and defenseless to protect themselves. Against that backdrop Netanyahu then remarked, “Israel can never cede its right to defend itself, not even to its greatest friends. And Israel has no greater friend that the United States of America.” Netanyahu warmly praised President Obama for his public declaration that “the essence of the rebirth of the Jewish state is the fulfillment of the age-old dream of the Jewish people: to be masters of their own fate in their own state.”
Obama Speaks to Israeli Students
In a speech to Israeli students, President Obama emphasized three areas: security, peace, and prosperity. He reminded the students of the Palestinian turmoil that is constantly around them, saying that true peace cannot come except as mutually agreed upon between two sovereign states.
President Obama praised Israeli innovation, declaring Israel to be a hub of technology and growth. He noted Israelis have built something meaningful on a small strip of land that has so much history. He then challenged the Israeli students to continue to build something of lasting and meaningful importance. “As we face the twilight of Israel’s founding generation, it falls to you, you students, to create the future.”