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The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release

Remarks by President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel before Bilateral Meeting

United Nations
New York, New York

11:01 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I want to welcome Prime Minister Netanyahu both to the United States and to New York.  As I just said in the speech that I gave before the U.N. General Assembly, the bonds between the United States and Israel are unbreakable.  And the United States’ commitment to Israel’s security is unbreakable.  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 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 side’s actions 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, that is what can achieve what is, I know, 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.  But as we pursue that peace, I know that the Prime Minister recognizes that America’s commitment to Israel will never waver, 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 and his cooperation, and I’m looking forward to an excellent discussion. 

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU:  Thank you, Mr. President.  Well, I want to thank you, Mr. President, for standing with Israel and supporting peace through direct negotiations.  We both agree that this is the only way to achieve peace.  We both agree that Palestinians and Israelis should sit down and negotiate an agreement of mutual recognition and security.  I think this is the only way to get to a stable and durable peace.

But 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 a peace -- that attempt to get membership -- state membership in the United Nations will not succeed. 

I think the Palestinians want to achieve a state through 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, responsible leaders, who will heed 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.

Now, I know that these leaders are under enormous pressure, and I know that they’re also –- and this -- from personal experience, I can tell you the automatic majority is 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 -- this is a badge of honor.  And I want to thank you for wearing that badge of honor, and also, I would express my hope that others will follow your example, Mr. President.  So I want to thank you for that.

11:06 A.M. EDT