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Peres, Obama Meet After AIPAC Speeches

Presidents Shimon Peres and Barack Obama hold working meeting after AIPAC speeches, discuss Iran and the peace process.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 3/5/2012, 4:16 AM

Obama at AIPAC
Obama at AIPAC
Reuters

Shortly after they gave their speeches at the AIPAC Policy Conference on Sunday, President Shimon Peres and U.S. President Barack Obama held a working meeting, in the framework of which they discussed ways to prevent Iran from attaining nuclear weapons, advancing the peace process and bilateral diplomatic and security cooperation. 

At the start of the meeting, Peres thanked Obama for his speech and said, “As an Israeli, I could not help but be moved by your remarks in which you expressed the deepest support for the State of Israel. These words attest to your strong and unshakeable position regarding the strategic security of the State of Israel and to your clear positions regarding Iran. Your remarks to the effect that the US opposes ‘containment’ of a nuclear Iran are very important for Israel as is your statement that all options are on the table.”

The two presidents discussed the importance of advancing the peace process between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, especially in light of the changes in the Middle East. As he did during his AIPAC speech, Peres emphasized the moderate axis in the Palestinian Authority must be strengthened and added that diplomatic stalemate will strengthen Hamas and the axis of terrorism in the entire region. 

In this context, Peres noted that in his AIPAC speech he had said that advancing peace on the basis of two states for two peoples is a national security interest for Israel and that the U.S. would ensure that Israel's security interests would be maintained under any peace agreement.

The two presidents also exchanged views on the situation in the Middle East and regarding Israel's relations with its neighbors, and discussed strengthening strategic diplomatic and security ties between Israel and the U.S. 

In a press briefing immediately after his meeting with Obama, Peres said, “Israel must thank President Obama for his very clear remarks, especially for his concern and his actions in maintaining Israel's qualitative edge in the field of security. We have a true friend in the White House and I am certain of President Obama's deep commitment to Israel.”

Peres also said that he was surprised by Obama’s decision decided to award him the Presidential Medal of Freedom and said, “This is a great honor for me and for the State of Israel. All of my actions in the past and the present have been for the good of the citizens of Israel; as far as I am concerned, the medal belongs to them. But much more than the medal, I was moved by President Obama's speech. This was the most pro-Israel speech that I have ever heard from an American President.”

Earlier on Sunday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu responded to Obama's speech and said, “I very much appreciated the fact that President Obama reiterated his position that Iran must not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons and that all options are on the table.

“I also appreciated the fact that he made clear that when it comes to a nuclear armed Iran, containment is simply not an option, and equally in my judgment, perhaps most important of all, I appreciated the fact that he said that Israel must be able to defend itself, by itself, against any threat. I appreciate all his statements and I look forward to discussing them further with President Obama tomorrow."