March 20, 2013
President Obama said the United States seeks to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, and he urged Iran’s leaders to resolve their dispute with the international community through diplomatic means.
Speaking with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem March 20, Obama said there is still time to resolve the standoff peacefully, but “the question is, will Iranian leadership seize that opportunity? Will they walk through that door?”
The most permanent solution “is ultimately going to be their decision that it is not worth it for them to pursue nuclear weapons,” he said. “If we can get that, that’s good for everybody, including Iran, because it would allow them to break out of the isolation that has hampered their society and their economic development for many years.”
The president said the United States and Israel agree that a nuclear-armed Iran would be “a threat to the region, a threat to the world and potentially an existential threat to Israel.”
He said the United States is committed to Israel’s security, which he said is “non-negotiable” and “a solemn obligation.”
The president said the United States and Israel are beginning discussions to extend U.S. military assistance beyond 2017, as well as to continue funding Israel’s anti-missile Iron Dome system.
“These are further reminders that we will help to preserve Israel’s qualitative military edge so that Israel can defend itself by itself against any threat,” he said.
He said a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would allow Israelis to feel a greater sense of security, break out of their current isolation in the region and allow Palestinians to “feel a sense that they too are masters of their own fate.”
Obama said he had come to the region to listen to Israeli and Palestinian leaders to get a sense of how they see a peace process moving forward.
In his remarks with Israeli President Shimon Peres, Obama said despite the difficult realities of their lives, the dreams of Israeli children are much the same as those of children all over the world.
“They want to be safe. They want to be free from rockets that hit their homes or their schools. They want a world where science and technology is created to build and not destroy. They want to live in peace, free from terror and threats that are so often directed at the Israeli people. That’s the future that they deserve,” he said.
Upon his arrival in Israel, Obama said it is “no accident” that Israel is the first stop on his first foreign trip since being re-elected.
“Across this region, the winds of change bring both promise and peril. So I see this visit as an opportunity to reaffirm the unbreakable bonds between our nations, to restate America’s unwavering commitment to Israel’s security, and to speak directly to the people of Israel and to your neighbors,” he said.