Obama: Not a lot of daylight between Israel and US on Iran

Following meeting with Netanyahu, Kerry, security chiefs, Obama and Netanyahu hold joint press conference; PM: Israel remains fully committed to peace; US president: Central element of lasting peace is secure Jewish state.

Obama waves as he steps aboard Air Force One 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Obama waves as he steps aboard Air Force One 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday he was "absolutely convinced" that US President Barack Obama was determined to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.
Obama, speaking beside the prime minister at a joint news conference in Jerusalem, said "there is not a lot of daylight" between the allies' individual assessments of the status of Iran's nuclear program.
"Each country has to make its own decisions when it comes to the awesome decision to engage in any kind of military action," Obama said. "And Israel is differently situated than the United States."
Netanyahu emphasized that Israel "cannot cede the right to defend ourselves to others," hinting at a possible go-it-alone plan to attack Iran's nuclear program.
Obama said he prefers to deal with the Iranian nuclear threat in a "diplomatic" manner.
He insisted that "all options remain on the table" and added that a "nuclear armed Iran would be threat to region, the world, and an existential threat to Israel."
As much as Obama prefers a diplomatic solution, he added that "Iran's leader must understand they must meet international obligations."
"I can say with confidence that Israel's security is guaranteed, and its got a great deal on its side," he said.
Obama also stated that the US government would continue to fund the Iron Dome missile defense system.
Obama stressed that Americas commitment to the State of Israel is a "solid obligation" and one that is "non negotiable."
"I will ensure no interruption in funding of the Iron Dome," said Obama. He added that his government would be providing $200 million this fiscal year, and would continue to work with congress to provide support for Israel. He added that the central element of lasting peace in Israel is a "strong and secure Jewish state."
Turning to the issue of the peace process, Netanyahu expressed hope that Obama's visit to the region would "help turn a page" in Israel's relations with the Palestinians.
Netanyahu said that with the entry of the new government, "Israel remains fully committed to peace and a solution for two states for two people."
"We extend our hands in peace and friendship to the Palestinians... let us put aside all preconditions and work together to achieve a historic compromise and put an end to the conflict," the prime minister said.
Concerning Syria, Obama said that the United States was investigating whether chemical weapons had been used in the country, and that Syrian President Bashar Assad would be held accountable if they had been.
"We have been clear that the use of chemical weapons against the Syrian people would be a serious and tragic mistake."
"The Assad regime must understand that they will be held accountable for the use of chemical weapons or their transfer to terrorists," he said.
Before the press conference Obama attended a meeting  at the Prime Minister's Office with Netanyahu, National Security Council head Yaakov Amidror and military attache Yair Zamir.
Obama was joined by US Secretary of State John Kerry and US Security Advisor Tom Donilon. The make-up of the meeting indicated the topic being discussed was Iran.
Click here for full JPost coverage of Obama's visit to Israel
Following the press conference the men will then go to a working dinner. Netanyahu will be joined by Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon and  International Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz to discuss regional issues. Later in the meeting they will be joined by Justice Minister Tzipi Livni to talk about the Palestinian track.
Upon arriving at the Prime Minister's residence, Obama spoke briefly with  Netanyahu's wife Sara, and son, Yair.
He then signed the guest book with the inscription, "It is a great honor to reaffirm the extraordinary bond between our two countries. By every measure, from security to our economy, our cooperation has never been greater,  and this in part is because of the strong commitment of Prime Minister Netanyahu.May our bonds continue to grow, on behalf of our people and prosperity for all people."