Obama and Netanyahu Emphasize Unity on Iran; Differences Remain
(WASHINGTON) -- Amid rising concerns about the prospect of the Iranian government making a nuclear weapon, President Obama on Monday assured Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that “the United States will always have Israel’s back when it comes to Israel’s security.”
In contrast to the tense Oval Office meeting last May, when the president and prime minister were more focused on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Obama and Netanyahu on Monday sounded united, though behind the scenes they are working through some contentious issues on how to best discourage Iran from continuing with any plans to manufacture a nuclear weapon.
Echoing remarks he delivered Sunday to the influential American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Obama reiterated that diplomacy is the best way to resolve the issue, but that all options, including military action, are on the table.
“We do believe that there is still a window that allows for a diplomatic resolution to this issue,” the president said. “We will continue to tighten pressure when it comes to sanctions, I reserve all options. And my policy here is not going to be one of containment; my policy is prevention of Iran obtaining nuclear weapons. And as I indicated yesterday in my speech, when I say all options are at the table, I mean it.”
The U.S. and Israel differ on timelines and red lines. President Obama believes there is still time for diplomatic and economic pressures to work.
“Both the prime minister and I prefer to resolve this diplomatically. We understand the costs of any military action, and I want to assure both the American people and the Israeli people that we are in constant and close consultation,” Obama said.
Obama’s continued call for diplomacy comes as the Israelis have asked for the White House to more starkly threaten military action against Iran if it continues to violate its international agreements to refrain from building a nuclear weapon. While the U.S. has called for Iran to not manufacture a weapon, Israel wants to go even further and prevent Iran from having the capability to build a weapon, and has asked the U.S. to push Iran to end its program of enriching uranium.
The president on Monday did not go that far, but said it is “profoundly in the United States' interest as well to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon” and added that “we do not want to see a nuclear arms race in one of the most volatile regions in the world. We do not want the possibility of a nuclear weapon falling into the hands of terrorists.”
In his remarks Netanyahu emphasized unity, saying that Israel and America stand together. The prime minister underscored that Israel is a sovereign nation with the right to defend itself.
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