Before they began a closed-door, one-on-one meeting, President Obama told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the United States “will always have Israel’s back” when it comes to the nation’s security.
The meeting in the Oval Office, which was to be followed by a lunch, came a day after the president addressed the annual gathering of AIPAC, the largest pro-Israel lobbying group, in which Obama assured the crowd that his policy toward Iran was to prevent it from obtaining a nuclear weapon, not “containment." Obama pointedly refused to rule out using military force to disrupt Iran's nuclear ambitions.
Obama reiterated that statement today during remarks to the press before his private meeting with Netanyahu.
“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,” he said.
The president also said, as he did Sunday, that the United States believes diplomatic efforts still have a chance of effectively dissuading Iran from pursuing nuclear weapons.
“We do believe that there is still a window that allows for a diplomatic resolution to this issue, but ultimately the Iranians' regime has to make a decision to move in that direction, a decision that they have not made thus far.”
While Iran’s nuclear aspirations are taking center stage this week, Obama also mentioned the ongoing conflict between Israel and their Palestinian neighbors, saying that he would discuss with Netanyahu the possibility of “a calmer set of discussions” between the two parties.
“It is a very difficult thing to do in light of the context right now, but I know that the Prime Minister remains committed to trying to achieve that,” he said.
Netanyahu, whose relationship with Obama was succinctly described by the president as “functional”in an interview last week, thanked Obama for the “strong” speech at AIPAC the day before.
He emphasized that the security interests of the United States and Israel are intertwined, given that Iran views them both as Western adversaries.
“For them, you're the Great Satan, we're the Little Satan. For them, we are you and you're us. And you know something, Mr. President -- at least on this last point, I think they're right. We are you, and you are us. We're together,” Netanyahu said.
Netanyahu is expected to address AIPAC at the group’s gala event this evening.