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March 20, 2013 4:33 pm

Full Transcript: Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Remarks at Press Conference with US President Barack Obama

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U.S. President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu greet one another Mrach 20, 2013. Photo: Facebook

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Below is the full transcript of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s remarks at the opening of the press conference held with U.S. President Obama on the first day of his first trip to Israel as U.S. president.

Prime Minister Netanyahu:  Mr. President, Barack, it’s a great pleasure to host you here in Jerusalem. You’ve graciously hosted me many times in Washington, so I’m very pleased to have this opportunity to reciprocate. I hope that the good will and warmth of the people of Israel has already made you feel at home.

President Obama:  Very much so.

PM:  We had an opportunity today to begin discussing the wide range of issues that are critical to both our countries, and foremost among these is Iran’s relentless pursuit of nuclear weapons.

Mr. President, you have made it clear that you are determined to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. I appreciate your forthright position on this point. I also appreciate that you have noted, that you have acted to thwart this threat, both through determined diplomacy and strong sanctions that are getting stronger yet. Notwithstanding our joint efforts and your great success in mobilizing the international community, diplomacy and sanctions so far have not stopped Iran’s nuclear program. And as you know, my view is that in order to stop Iran’s nuclear programs peacefully, diplomacy and sanctions must be augmented by a clear and credible threat of military action.

In this regard, Mr. President, I want to thank you once again for always making clear that Israel must be able to defend itself by itself against any threats. I deeply appreciate those words because they speak to the great transformation that has occurred in the life of the Jewish people with the rebirth of the Jewish state. The Jewish people only two generations ago were once a powerless people, defenseless against those who sought our destruction. Today we have both the right and the capability to defend ourselves. As you said earlier today, the essence of the State of Israel, 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 our fate in our own state, and I think that was a wonderful line that I will cherish, because it really gets down to the essence of what this state is about.

That is why I know that you appreciate that Israel never cede the right to defend ourselves to others, even to the greatest of our friends, and Israel has no better friend than the United States of America.

So I look forward to continue to work with you to address what is an existential threat to Israel, and a great threat to the peace and security of the world.

Mr. President, we discussed today the situation in Syria. We share the goal of seeing a stable and peaceful Syria emerge from the carnage that we have witnessed over the last two years. That carnage is already resulted in the deaths of over 70,000 people and the suffering of millions. We also share a determination to prevent the deadly arsenal of weapons within Syria from falling into terrorist hands. And I have no doubt that the best way to do that is to work closely with the United States and other countries in the region to address this challenge; and that is what we intend to do.

Finally, Mr. President, your visit gave us an opportunity to try to find a way to advance peace between Israelis and Palestinians. My new government was sworn in two days ago. I know there have been questions regarding what the policy of the new government will be towards peace with the Palestinians. So let me be clear: Israel remains fully committed to peace and to the solution of two states for two peoples. We extend our hands in peace and in friendship to the Palestinian people. I hope that your visit, along with the visit of Secretary of State Kerry will help us turn a page in our relations with the Palestinians. Let us sit down at the negotiating table. Let us put aside all preconditions. Let us work together to achieve the historic compromise that will end our conflict once and for all.

Let me conclude, Mr. President, on a personal note: I know how valuable the time and the energies of the American president, of yourself. This is the tenth time that we have met since you became President and since I became Prime Minister. You’ve chosen Israel as your first venue in your foreign visits in your second term. I want to thank you for the investment you have made in our relationship, and in strengthening the friendship and alliance between our two countries. It is deeply, deeply appreciated.

You have come here on the eve of Passover. I’ve always considered it as our most cherished holiday. It celebrates the Jewish people’s passage from slavery to freedom. Through the ages, it has also inspired people struggling for freedom, including the founding fathers of the United States. So it’s a profound honor to host you, the leader of the free world, at this historic time in our ancient capital.

Mr. President. Welcome to Israel, welcome to Jerusalem.

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