(Communicated by the Office of the President)
President Shimon Peres on Sunday, 4 March 2012, held a working meeting with US President Barack Obama in the framework of which they discussed ways to prevent Iran from attaining nuclear weapons, advancing the Israel-Palestinian peace process and bilateral diplomatic and security cooperation. Prior to their meeting both President Peres and US President Obama addressed the 14,000 people who attended the opening of the AIPAC Policy Conference, including senior administration officials and both Democratic and republican Congressional leaders.
At the start of the meeting, President Peres thanked US President Obama for his speech and said, "As an Israeli, I could not help but be moved by your remarks in which you expressed the deepest support for the State of Israel. These words attest to your strong and unshakeable position regarding the strategic security of the State of Israel and to your clear positions regarding Iran. Your remarks to the effect that the US opposes 'containment' of a nuclear Iran are very important for Israel as is your statement that all options are on the table."
The two presidents discussed the importance of advancing the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians especially in light of the changes in the Middle East. President Peres emphasized the moderate axis in the Palestinian Authority must be strengthened and added that diplomatic stalemate will strengthen Hamas and the axis of terrorism in the entire region. In this context, the President noted that - in his AIPAC speech - he had said that advancing peace on the basis of two states for two peoples is a national security interest for Israel and that the US would ensure that Israel's security interests would be maintained under any peace agreement.
The two presidents also exchanged views on the situation in the Middle East and regarding Israel's relations with its neighbors, and discussed strengthening strategic diplomatic and security ties between Israel and the US. In a press briefing immediately after his meeting with US President Obama, President Peres said, "Israel must thank President Obama for his very clear remarks, especially for his concern and his actions in maintaining Israel's qualitative edge in the field of security. We have a true friend in the White House and I am certain of President Obama's deep commitment to Israel."
In his AIPAC speech, US President Obama noted that he has decided to award the Presidential Medal of Freedom to President Peres this coming spring. President Peres admitted that he was surprised by the decision and said, "This is a great honor for me and for the State of Israel. All of my actions in the past and the present have been for the good of the citizens of Israel; as far as I am concerned, the medal belongs to them. But much more than the medal, I was moved by President Obama's speech. This was the most pro-Israel speech that I have ever heard from an American President."