In their first meeting since the collapse of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and the recent war between Israel and Hamas, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Barack Obama met at the White House on Wednesday.
Obama reaffirmed “the unbreakable bond between the United States and Israel” and commented that Israel was facing “a very turbulent neighborhood” of enemies in the Middle East.
In a press appearance before the private meeting between both leaders, Netanyahu praised Obama for his “unflinching support” of Israel and strong leaderships against combating ISIS.
Referring to the recent war between Hamas and Israel, the president said that the US was proud of its role in helping to save countless lives in Israel by supporting the Iron Dome missile defense system.
Turning to the peace process, Obama made clear that Israel and the Palestinians must both come back to the negotiating table.
“We have to find ways to change the status quo so that both Israeli citizens are safer in their own homes, and schoolchildren in their schools…but also that we don’t have the tragedy of Palestinian children being killed as well.”
Netanyahu told the president that while he is committed to a two-state solution, he stressed that any peace agreement would require “mutual recognition” and “rock solid security arrangements on the ground.”
The prime minister praised Obama for approving additional funding for Iron Dome, “which has saved so many lives.”
However, Netanyahu reiterated to Obama an important call he made during his recent address to the UN General Assembly on Monday. The prime minister made calls to Arab countries to become more involved in the peace process.
According to Netanyahu, something is “changing in the Middle East” and Arab countries have a “commonality of interest between Israel and leading Arab states.”
“I think that we should work very hard together to seize on those common interests and build a positive program to advance a more secure, a more prosperous and more peaceful Middle East,” the prime minister stated. “I remain committed to a vision of peace of two states for two peoples based on the ground.”
Netanyahu urged the US to “think outside the box” and “see how we can recruit the Arab countries to advance this very hopeful agenda.”
Turning to the topic of Iran, Netanyahu implored the US to “prevent Iran becoming a military nuclear power.” He said that in no terms should Iran have any nuclear capabilities.
“Iran seeks a deal that would lift the tough sanctions that you worked so hard to put in place and leave it as a threshold nuclear power. I fervently hoped that under your leadership that would happen,” Netanyahu told Obama.
Also present during the two-hour long meeting were US Secretary of State John Kerry, Vice President Joe Biden, US National Security Adviser Susan Rice, Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer, Israeli negotiator Itzhak Molho, and Israeli National Security Adviser Yossi Cohen.
During their exchange, both leaders looked relaxed and appeared warm to one another despite what many predicted would be a cold reception at the White House.
The meeting between Netanyahu and Obama took place amid reports that Israel approved the construction of hundreds of new homes in East Jerusalem as well as a Palestinian Authority bid for statehood to the UN.