PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Secretary of State Blinken, Tony, welcome once again to Jerusalem.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you.
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Your visit is another expression, a continual expression, of the unbreakable bond between Israel and the United States. It’s one of the great alliances of modern history. We share common interests, which are growing by the day. We share common values; two strong democracies which will remain, I assure you, two strong democracies.
This alliance is something that President Biden is committed to. I’ve known him for 40 years. He’s a true friend of Israel, a true champion of this alliance, as are you. I’m not sure that all of Israel know your own contribution in helping us with missile defense in times of peril. You’ve actually helped us during one crisis in record time and then did so again; and you’ve also just helped us push back on the attempts to delegitimize Israel in the United Nations. And we’re grateful for that and for your continual friendship.
Your visit comes at an important time. It’s a time where many in the international community – I would say most of the international community – have seen the true face of Iran. They’ve seen the barbarism of this regime against its own people. They’ve seen how it exports aggression beyond its border and beyond the Middle East, and I think there is a common consensus that this regime must not acquire nuclear weapons.
We’ve had very good discussions on forging a common policy on trying to work together to thwart the danger. I can repeat again something that you’ve heard me say many times: Our policy, and my policy, is to do everything within Israel’s power to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them. And that will remain so. But obviously, the fact that we and the United States are working together is something that is important for this common goal as well.
In addition to thwarting the danger, we also see an opportunity to seize opportunities, the opportunities of expanding the circle of peace. We intend to deepen the peace that we’ve already made in the Abraham Accords. We discussed some of the initiatives that we are considering doing together, but also to perhaps achieve dramatic breakthroughs that I think could be both historic and enormously significant in our common efforts to bring prosperity, security, and peace to this part of the world and to – and beyond.
So with this in mind, I have to tell you that I also believe that expanding the circle of peace – working to close, finally, the file of the Arab-Israeli conflict – I think would also help us achieve a workable solution with our Palestinian neighbors. And for all these reasons, I welcome you once again to Jerusalem. Welcome.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you. Prime Minister, thank you very much. It’s very good to see you, and I want to thank you for what has been, as always, a very productive, very candid, and I think important discussion that covered a lot of issues.
Just as I did upon arrival in Israel, I had a chance to express directly to the prime minister my condolences and that of the United States Government for the seven Israelis who were killed in the horrific terrorist attack early this week outside their synagogue. President Biden called the prime minister immediately after the attack to underscore the United States’ steadfast support for Israel and its people, a message that I reaffirmed in the meeting we just had.
In the context of this attack and escalating violence, it’s important that the Government and people of Israel know America’s commitment to their security remains ironclad. That commitment is backed up by nearly 75 years of United States support. America’s commitment has never wavered. It never will. And today the prime minister and I discussed ways that we can continue to strengthen our partnership and our shared security interests.
We agree that Iran must never be allowed to acquire a nuclear weapon, and we discussed deepening cooperation to confront and counter Iran’s destabilizing activities in the region and beyond. Just as Iran has long supported terrorists that attack Israelis and others, the regime is now providing drones that Russia is using to kill innocent Ukrainian civilians.
In turn, Russia is providing sophisticated weaponries to Iran. It’s a two-way street. Russia’s ongoing atrocities only underscore the importance of providing support for all of Ukraine’s needs – humanitarian, economic, and security – as it bravely defends its people and its very right to exist, a topic that we also discussed today.
Now, one of the most effective ways to make Israel more secure is to continue to build bridges in the region and even well beyond the region. That’s why we’ve worked relentlessly to deepen and broaden the Abraham Accords and other normalization agreements between Israel and Arab states. Earlier this month, a large delegation from across the United States Government joined representatives from Israel, from Bahrain, from Egypt, from Morocco, from the United Arab Emirates in Abu Dhabi for the first meeting of the Negev Forum Working Groups. This was the largest gathering of Israel and Arab officials since the 1991 Madrid Conference.
These groups are focusing on issues affecting the lives and livelihoods of all of our people – food and water security, clean energy, health care, education and coexistence, tourism, regional security. It’s part of a comprehensive effort to enable collaboration not only between our governments but also our businesses, entrepreneurs, civil societies, young people.
The prime minister has spoken about our ability to do big things together. Well, Israel’s greater integration in the region is very much one of them. A few years ago this kind of cooperation would have been unimaginable. Today it is genuinely fostering new opportunities for people across the participating countries to connect, to collaborate, to learn, from teaming up on cancer research, to launching new startups in green energy and drought-resistant agriculture, to competing in real sports and e-sports.
Each of these interactions helps chip away at enduring biases and mistrust, and this never would have happened without the leadership of the prime minister. We’re determined to keep building on that progress, on new issues with new countries, as we work to strengthen the circle of peace.
These efforts are not a substitute for progress between Israelis and Palestinians, but as we advance Israel’s integration, we can do so in ways that improve the daily lives of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. And that’s crucial to moving toward our enduring goal of Palestinians and Israelis enjoying equal measures of freedom, security, opportunity, justice, and dignity. President Biden remains fully committed to that goal.
We continue to believe that the best way to achieve it is through preserving and then realizing the vision of two states. As I said to the prime minister, anything that moves us away from that vision is, in our judgment, detrimental to Israel’s long-term security and its long-term identity as a Jewish and democratic state. That’s why we’re urging all sides now to take urgent steps to restore calm, to de-escalate. We want to make sure that there’s an environment in which we can, I hope, at some point create the conditions where we can start to restore a sense of security for Israelis and Palestinians alike, which of course is sorely lacking.
We also remain committed to supporting religious coexistence and diversity, including in Jerusalem. We continue to support upholding the historic status quo at Jerusalem’s holy places, including the Temple Mount Haram al-Sharif. We’re grateful to the prime minister for his repeated expressions of support for that position.
One of the things that makes the partnership between us so strong is that it goes well beyond any one American or Israeli government. Few people understand that better than President Biden, who’s worked closely with every Israeli prime minister since Golda Meir, and Prime Minister Netanyahu, who has worked closely with his share of American presidents.
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Quite a few.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Throughout the relationship between our countries, what we come back to time and again is that it is rooted both in shared interests and in shared values. That includes our support for core democratic principles and institutions, including respect for human rights, the equal administration of justice for all, the equal rights of minority groups, the rule of law, free press, a robust civil society – and the vibrancy of Israel’s civil society has been on full display of late.
The commitment of people in both our countries to make their voices heard, to defend their rights, is one of the unique strengths of our democracies. Another is a recognition that building consensus for new proposals is the most effective way to ensure they’re embraced and that they endure. Our fellow democracies can also make us stronger. That’s what the United States and Israel have done for each other over many decades, by holding ourselves to the mutual standards we’ve established; and by speaking frankly and respectfully, as friends do, when we agree and when we do not.
The discussion that the prime minister and I had today was no exception. That conversation will continue, including with other members of Israel’s Government and civil society, as part of a perpetual process to defend and bolster the pillars of our democracy, which we are both committed to.
So Mr. Prime Minister, again, thank you so much for your hospitality, for the very good conversation, and for the enduring partnership between our countries. Thank you.
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Thank you.