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Barack Obama Administration: Remarks by President Obama and PM Netanyahu Before Meeting at UN

(September 21, 2011)

President Obama: 

As I just said in the speech that I gave before the UN General Assembly, the bonds between the United States and Israel are unbreakable, and the United States' commitment to Israel's security is unbreakable.

Indeed, I think it's fair to say that today our security cooperation is stronger than it has ever been. I’m looking forward to a good discussion with Prime Minister Netanyahu about the events not only here in the United Nations, but also of the developments that have been taking place in the region.

As I just indicated, peace cannot be imposed on the parties. It's going to have to be negotiated. One-sided declarations in the United Nations will achieve neither statehood nor self-determination for the Palestinians, but Israelis and Palestinians sitting down together and working through these very difficult issues that have kept the parties apart for decades now…  the ultimate goal of all of us, which is two states, side by side, living in peace and security.

Recent events in the region remind us of how fragile peace can be and why the pursuit of Middle East peace is more urgent than ever. I think we need to pursue that peace, and know that the Prime Minister recognizes that America's commitment to Israel will never waiver and that our pursuit of a just and lasting peace is one that is, not only compatible, but we think puts Israel’s security at the forefront.

So, it is a great pleasure to have the Prime Minister here. I want to thank him for his efforts.

PM Netanyahu: 

I want to thank you, Mr. President, for standing with Israel and supporting peace through direct negotiations. We both agree this is the only way to achieve peace. We both agree that Palestinians and the Israelis should sit down together and negotiate an agreement of mutual recognition and security. I think this is the only way to get to a stable and durable peace. You’ve also made it clear that the Palestinians deserve a state, but it’s a state that has to make that peace with Israel, and therefore their attempt to shortcut this process, not negotiate peace - that attempt to get state membership in the United Nations will not succeed. I think the Palestinians want to achieve a state in the international community, but they’re not prepared yet to give peace to Israel in return.

And my hope is that there will be other leaders in the world, as part of the UN, who will meet your call, Mr. President, and oppose this effort to shortcut peace negotiations - in fact to avoid them - because I think that avoiding these negotiations is bad for Israel, bad for the Palestinians and bad for peace. I know that these leaders are under enormous pressure and I know that they are also in this house which has, from personal experience I can tell you, automatic majorities against Israel, but I think that standing your ground, taking this position of principle, which is also, I think, the right position to achieve peace - I think this is a badge of honor and I want to thank you for wearing that badge of honor, and also to express my hope that others will follow your example, Mr. President. So I want to thank you.

Sources: The White House