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Daily Israel Report

Obama: Little Daylight between Us on Iran

U.S. President, Prime Minister, hold an upbeat news conference. Obama, Netanyahu: Israel has the right to defend itself.
By Yoni Kempinski & Gil Ronen
First Publish: 3/20/2013, 7:59 PM

PM Netanyahu & President Obama
PM Netanyahu & President Obama
Flash 90

U.S. President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu held a good-spirited news conference after their working meeting Wednesday, which began at about 5:30 p.m. Israel time and lasted close to three hours.

Netanyahu said that Israel "will never hand over the right to defend ourselves, even to our best friend – and we have no better friend than the United States." He added, "Sanctions on Iran have not succeeded in stopping the nuclear move, and you know that a credible military threat must be added to the sanctions."

"We do not have a policy of containment when it comes to a nuclear Iran," Obama said. "We prefer to resolve this diplomatically, and there is still time to do so. The international community will continue to increase pressure on Iran, and we will continue to consult closely with Israel."

He repeated that "all options are on the table."

The press conference was scheduled to begin at 8:10 p.m., or 4:10 p.m. New York City time, but began a little later.

When asked why the United States is not intervening directly in the civil war in Syria, Obama said, "To the extent possible I want to make sure that we are working as an international community. This is a world problem, not a U.S. problem. So we will continue to work in an international framework," regarding Syria.

"I am absolutely convinced that the President is determined to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons," Netanyahu said in response to a question. "I also appreciate that he said that the Jewish people have returned to their land in order to be masters of their own fate. That sums up our common view. A nuclear Iran is a grave threat. The U.S. is committed to deal with it, Israel is committed to deal with it. Israel has a right to independently defend itself from any threat."

"Our intelligence cooperation on this issue – the consultation between our militaries – is unprecedented," Obama said. "There is not a lot of daylight between our countries' assessments as to where Iran is right now, in its nuclear weapons program. Each country has to make its own decisions. Israel is differently situated from the US. I would not expect that the Prime Minister would defer decisions on his country's security to other countries. I would not do that regarding my country's security.

"I have said to Bibi that I think there is time to solve this diplomatically. Will Iran seize that opportunity? It would be in Iran's interest if this were solved diplomatically."

Netanyahu added, "If Iran decides to actually manufacture the weapon it would take them about a year, although they could defer that for a long time. To make a weapon you need the actual weapon [the warhead – ed.] and you need enriched uranium. Iran is pursuing it. They have not yet reached the red line that I described in my UN speech. On these matters we share information and we have a common assessment. Whatever time is left, there is not a lot of time left."