President Obama welcomed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the White House today as the two leaders look to overcome mounting bilateral tensions spawned by intense disagreement over the Iran nuclear deal.
“It's no secret that the prime minister and I have had a strong disagreement on this narrow issue,” Obama conceded during a brief photo opportunity in the Oval Office prior to their first meeting since the deal was announced in July.
“But we don't have a disagreement on the need to making sure Iran does not get a nuclear weapon, and we don't have a disagreement about us blunting destabilizing activities in Iran that may be taking place.”
Netanyahu said it is “tremendously important” for Israel and the United States to work together “to see how we can defend ourselves against this aggression and this terror.”
He was slightly muted in the presence of the media and did not directly raise his disapproval of the nuclear agreement.
“We are obviously tested, today, in the instability and insecurity in the Middle East,” Netanyahu told Obama. “I think everybody can see it. With the savagery of ISIS, with the aggression in terror by Iran's proxies, and by Iran itself, and the combination of turbulence has now displaced millions of people, has butchered hundreds of thousands, and we don't know what will transpire.”
Obama said the attack on U.S. citizens in Jordan earlier today will be taken “very seriously” as U.S. investigators begin collaborating with Jordanians “to determine exactly what happened.”
The president added that preliminary reports indicate “two or three” U.S. citizens were killed and “a number of other individuals” were injured.
“We're with you,” Netanyahu said, adding his condolences. “We're with each other in more ways than one and I want to thank you for this opportunity to strengthen our friendship, which is strong; strengthen our alliance, which is strong.”
Obama said “it's no secret” that the security environment in the Middle East has “deteriorated in many areas,” but he stressed that “the security of Israel is one of my top foreign policy priorities.”
“It is my strong belief that Israel has not just the right, but the obligation to protect itself,” Obama said.
Obama remarked that the two leaders would also discuss the “chaotic situation” in Syria, violence in the Palestinian territories and “how we can get back on a path towards peace.”