Netanyahu to Obama in Israel: Diplomacy and sanctions have not stopped Iran

( President Barack Obama in Israel dismissed a U.S. policy of containment for the Iranian nuclear threat and echoed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s statement that the Jewish state has the right to “defend itself, by itself” during a joint press conference with the prime minister on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shakes hands with President Barack Obama in Israel Wednesday during their joint press conference. Credit: Israel Hayom video screenshot.

Obama said a nuclear-armed Iran “would be a threat to the region, a threat to the world and potentially an existential threat to Israel,” and that he and Netanyahu “agree on our goal.”

“We do not have a policy of containment when it comes to a nuclear Iran,” Obama said, according to Israel Hayom. “Our policy is to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.”

Yet, the differences between Obama and Netanyahu on Iran remained apparent on Wednesday. The Obama administration has so far resisted the prime minister’s calls to set a “red line,” a point that, if crossed by Iran’s nuclear program, would prompt U.S. military action against the Islamic Republic.

“We prefer to resolve this diplomatically, and there is still time to do so,” Obama said.

Netanyahu expressed his appreciation for the fact that Obama has “acted to thwart this [Iranian] threat, both through determined diplomacy and strong sanctions that are getting stronger yet,” but noted that those efforts have not changed Iran’s behavior.

“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,” Netanyahu said.

“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,” the prime minister added.

Netanyahu thanked Obama for affirming Israel’s right to defend itself by itself, saying, “That is why I know that you appreciate that Israel never ceded 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.”

Obama called the Israeli-Palestinian conflict “a really hard problem that has been lingering for over six decades.” When asked “What went wrong?” after his first-term promise to not let the Palestinian issue slip to his second term, Obama explained, “What I said was, I was not going to wait to start on the issue until my second term because I thought it was too important. And that’s exactly what I did. I am absolutely sure that there are a host of things that I could have done that would have been more deft and, you know, would have created better optics. But ultimately, this is a really hard problem.”

Israeli Homefront Defense Minister Gilad Erdan said Obama “came to Israel with an entirely different approach, apparently based on the lessons of his first term.”

Posted on March 21, 2013 .