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Joint Press Conference by President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, March 2013

Speakers: Barack Obama, and Benjamin Netanyahu
Published March 20, 2013

President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu held this press conference on March 20, 2013 during Obama's first trip to Israel as President. They discussed U.S. security and monetary support to Israel, the Israel-Palestine conflict, and regional security.

Excerpt from the Q & A:

"Q Welcome, Mr. President. On your way back to Washington on Friday, what will you consider a successful visit? Convincing the Israeli leaders that they can rely on you on the Iranian issue, especially that they learned that there are differences between Israel and the United States concerning the enrichment of the Iranian -- or convincing both sides -- Israelis and the Palestinians -- to revive the floundering negotiation, reviving the peace process, the floundering peace process?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, my main goal on this trip has been to have an opportunity to speak directly to the Israeli people at a time when obviously what was already a pretty tough neighborhood has gotten tougher, and let them know that they've got a friend in the United States, that we have your back; that we consider Israel's security of extraordinary importance to us, not just because of the bonds between our peoples but also because of our own national security interest.

In that context, what I have also sought to achieve here is further consultations, building on what we've already discussed -- as Bibi has just formed a new government, as I am entering my second term -- that we continue to have close consultation around some of these shared interests that we've already discussed, Iran being obviously a prominent shared concern. I want to make sure that the Israeli people and the Israeli government consistently understand my thinking and how I'm approaching this problem. And I want to understand how the Israeli government and the Prime Minister is approaching this problem to make sure that there are no misunderstandings there.

With respect to the peace process, as I said, I'll have more to say about this tomorrow. But I think you are absolutely right that over the last year, year and a half, two years, two and a half years, we haven't gone forward. We haven't seen the kind of progress that we would like to see.

There's some elements of good news. I mean, the fact of the matter is, is that even with all that's been happening in the region, the Palestinian Authority has worked effectively in cooperation with the international community -- in part because of some of the training that we, the United States, provided -- to do its part in maintaining security in the West Bank. We have seen some progress when it comes to economic development and opportunity for the Palestinian people.

But the truth of the matter is trying to bring this to some sort of clear settlement, a solution that would allow Israelis to feel as if they've broken out of the current isolation that they're in, in this region, that would allow the incredible economic growth that's taking place inside this country to be a model for trade and commerce and development throughout the region at a time when all these other countries need technology and commerce and jobs for their young people, for Palestinians to feel a sense that they, too, are masters of their own fate, for Israel to feel that the possibilities of rockets raining down on their families has diminished -- that kind of solution we have not yet seen.

And so what I want to do is listen, hear from Prime Minister Netanyahu -- tomorrow, I'll have a chance to hear from Abu Mazen -- to get a sense from them, how do they see this process moving forward. What are the possibilities and what are the constraints, and how can the United States be helpful? And I purposely did not want to come here and make some big announcement that might not match up with what the realities and possibilities on the ground are. I wanted to spend some time listening before I talked -- which my mother always taught me was a good idea.

And so, hopefully -- I'll consider it a success if when I go back on Friday, I'm able to say to myself I have a better understanding of what the constraints are, what the interests of the various parties are, and how the United States can play a constructive role in bringing about a lasting peace and two states living side by side in peace and security."

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