White House ready for ‘way forward’ with Israel

White House ready for ‘way forward’ with Israel

Israeli Prime Minister and President Barack Obama are ready to move past fundamental disagreements about the Iran nuclear accord and work together to ensure that Israel’s security needs are met, according to U.S Ambassador to Israel, Daniel Shapiro.

Shapiro addressed members of the American Jewish Press Association on Tuesday at a private briefing in Washington shortly after the two leaders met for the first time since the signing of the Iran deal.

Shapiro acknowledged that while Obama and Netanyahu had not agreed on the outcome of the negotiations with Iran, they were ready to move forward.

“Everyone is perfectly aware of the disagreements,” Shapiro told the reporters who were in town for the annual AJPA Conference.

Both leaders have the same goal of preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, he said; where they two leaders disagree is on the tactics to ensure that goal is achieved.

In the wake of the signing of the deal, Obama and Netanyahu came together to discuss how to warrant that Israel “has the military edge to defend itself” from the remaining threats “in a turbulent and dangerous Middle East,” Shapiro said.

The leaders discussed ensuring Iran lives up to its commitments under the deal, and the allies’ ability to respond appropriately if it doesn’t, he said.

Shapiro noted the persistence of Iranian threats not covered by the accord, such as conventional weapon capabilities, and the regime’s funding of terror groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas.

Those threats, he said, “are still very real.”

Efforts to combat those threats need to be “refocused” and “intensified” going forward, he said, and Israel will continue to have the strong support of the United States in its defense.

“No administration has ever done more for Israel’s security,” Shapiro said. “We will continue that.”

Shapiro stressed the U.S. commitment to strengthening Israel’s security on other fronts as well, noting the importance of ensuring “the Syrian civil war doesn’t spill over and threaten Israel.”

Obama and Netanyau agreed there would be recurring discussions on a long-term memorandum of understanding on the military assistance that the U.S. would provide to the Jewish state.

On the Palestinian issue, Shapiro said that both Obama and Netanyahu remain “in strong agreement on the critical importance of a two-state for two-people solution.”

The current stall in peace negotiations, coupled with the new wave of Palestinian violence on the streets of Israel, though, has launched the process into a “difficult phase.”

The U.S. “condemns the incitement of terror,” he said, “and we are concerned about the prospect of ever achieving a two-state solution.”

The Obama administration wants to work with the parties to find steps to take to “reduce tension,” and “build confidence” between the Israelis and the Palestinians during the period of stalled negotiations, in order to “keep the prospect of peace alive.”

“The President and the entire administration remain absolutely committed to a two-state solution,” Shapiro stressed. “But we are very concerned about entering into a period that will lead a number of people to conclude it won’t happen. That can be very dangerous.”

While the two leaders have had their differences—often played out on the public stage—Monday’s meeting was “a very positive, business-like professions meeting,” said Shapiro. “The two leaders are…deeply committed to Israel’s security.”

Toby Tabachnick can be reached at tobyt@thejewishchronicle.net

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