WASHINGTON – Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu reaffirmed his commitment to a two-state solution in a brief statement he made alongside US President Barack Obama before their meeting in the White House on Wednesday.
“I remain committed to the vision of peace of two states for two peoples, based on mutual recognition and rock solid security arrangements,” Netanyahu said.
At the same time, he indicated that the path to two states might be different from the one tried for the last 20 years, saying he believes “we should make use of the new opportunities [in the Middle East], think outside of the box, and see how we can include the Arab countries to advance this very hopeful agenda.”
Netanyahu, who was criticized by opponents in Israel for not delivering a hopeful message in the UN during his address there on Monday, said that the “enormous challenges facing the United States and Israel in the Middle East” pose new threats but also new opportunities.
“There is something that is changing in the Middle East,” he said. “Out of the new situation there is a commonality of interests between Israel and the leading Arab states, and I think that we should work very hard together to seize upon the common interests and build positive progress to advance a more secure, prosperous and peaceful Middle East.”
As to the dangers, Netanyahu said Israel fully supports Obama’s “effort and leadership” to defeat Islamic State. “We think that everyone should support this,” he said.
Netanyahu briefly mentioned Iran, saying that it is his “fervent hope” that under the president’s leadership Iran does not become a nuclear threshold state.
Obama said that this meeting comes at a “challenging time,” and presents another opportunity to “reaffirm the unbreakable bond between the United States and Israel, and our ironclad commitment to making sure that Israel is secure.”
Obama said that the American people are “very proud” about the US contributions to Iron Dome, the air defense system “that protected the lives of Israelis at a time when rockets were pouring into Israel on a regular basis.”
Referring at the beginning of his brief statement to Gaza, Obama said that ways have to be found to “change the status quo” so that Israelis are safe in their homes and schools, and “also so you don’t have the tragedy of Palestinian children being killed as well.”
He said the meeting with Netanyahu would deal extensively with Gaza, as well as with finding a more sustainable peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
Obama said he would also “debrief” the prime minister on the work to “degrade and ultimately destroy ISIS [Islamic State].”
Likewise, he said, “we’ll also have an opportunity to discuss the progress that’s being made with respect to dealing with Iran’s nuclear program, which obviously has been a high priority for not only Israel but also the United States and the world community.”
A source in Netanyahu’s entourage described the twohour meeting as “thorough.”
The two talked about Islamic State, the negotiations with Iran, and how the changes in the region are impacting the diplomatic process with the Palestinians.
Attendees at the meeting included Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State John Kerry, Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer and US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro.