Thursday, March 21, 2013

Netanyahu says Israel cannot cede self-defence

JERUSALEM, March 21, 2013 PTI

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that his country cannot cede its right to self defence to others, with visiting US President Barack Obama re-assuring his enduring support for the security of the Jewish State.

"Today we have both the right and the capability to defend ourselves. As you said earlier today, the essence of the State of Israel, the essence of the rebirth of the Jewish state, is the fulfilment of the age-old dream of the Jewish people: to be masters of our fate in our own state," Mr. Netanyahu said.

"That is why I know that you appreciate that Israel never cede the right to defend ourselves to others, even to the greatest of our friends, and Israel has no better friend than the United States of America", Mr. Netanyahu, whose frosty relations with Mr. Obama have been an issue of widespread discussion in media, stressed.

"Thank you for unequivocally affirming Israel's sovereign right to defend itself by itself against any threat," the right-wing Israeli leader said.

The Israeli leader sought United States' cooperation in dealing with the Iranian threat which he described as "an existential threat to Israel" and a great threat to the peace and security of the world.

Mr. Obama re-iterated his country's commitment to the security of Israel "as a solemn obligation" that is "non-negotiable".

"As leaders, our most solemn responsibility is the security of our people. That's job number 1. My job as President of the United States is first and foremost is to keep the American people safe. Bibi (nickname for Netanyahu), as Prime Minister, your first task is to keep the people of Israel safe. And Israel's security needs are truly unique, as I've seen myself", the U.S. President said.

"As President I have therefore made it clear America's commitment to the security of the State of Israel as a solemn obligation, and the security of Israel is non-negotiable", he emphasised.

Supporting his claim Mr. Obama stressed that America's support for Israel today is unprecedented and the alliance has never been stronger.

"Today our military and intelligence personnel cooperate more closely than ever before. We conduct more joint exercises and training than ever before. We're providing more security assistance and advanced technology to Israel than ever before.

"That includes more support for the missile defences, like Iron Dome which I saw today and which has saved so many Israeli lives," he elaborated.

The U.S. President also told reporters that he had directed his team to start working on extending the military assistance to Israel beyond 2017 when the current agreement ends.

"I am also pleased to announce that we will take steps to ensure that there is no interruption of funding for Iron Dome," Mr. Obama said after visiting a mobile station of the anti-missile defence system that has been widely talked about for its success rate in intercepting missiles fired from Gaza by Palestinian militants.

"As a result of decisions that I made last year Israel will receive approximately $200 million this fiscal year and we will continue to work with Congress on future funding of Iron Dome," he noted.

"These are further reminders that we will help to preserve Israel's qualitative military edge so that Israel can defend itself by itself against any threat," the U.S. President asserted.

Touching upon the issue of Iranian nuclear programme, Mr. Obama clarified that his country's position on the issue was not one of "containment" but was determined to prevent the Islamic Republic from acquiring nuclear capability.

"We agree that a nuclear armed Iran would be a threat to the region, a threat to the world and potentially an existential threat to Israel", he said.

"We agree on our goal. We do not have a policy of containment when it comes to a nuclear Iran. Our policy is to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon", the U.S. President emphasised.

However, the U.S. leader said that Washington prefers to resolve the issue diplomatically first and there is still time to do so".

Asserting that Washington will continue to pressurise Tehran through the international community, Mr. Obama did not also rule out the possibility of a military strike saying, "all options are on the table" and "we will do what is necessary to prevent Iran from getting the world's worst weapons".

Appreciating the U.S. President's role in mobilising international sanctions against Iran and clear assertion to prevent it from going nuclear, Mr. Netanyahu applauded Mr. Obama for earlier describing the creation of the Jewish state "the greatest redemption in history".

"I deeply appreciate those words because they speak to the great transformation that has occurred in the life of the Jewish people with the rebirth of the Jewish state. The Jewish people only two generations ago were once a powerless people, defenceless against those who sought our destruction", the hawkish Israeli leader said.
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