Our discussion this morning focused on two central issues. First and foremost, we discussed the danger to the world posed by Iran’s pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability. We believe that in a final deal, unlike the interim deal, it’s crucial to bring about a final agreement about determination of Iran’s military and nuclear capability. I have expressed my concern since Geneva that the sanctions would begin to unravel, and I think steps must be taken to prevent further erosions of sanctions.
Now, on the Palestinian issue, I want to say that Israel is ready for historic peace, and it’s a peace based on two states for two peoples. It’s a peace that Israel can and must be able to defend itself, by itself, with our own forces against any foreseeable threat. I would also stress that Israel continues to honor all understandings reached in prior negotiations.
Now, if this process is going to continue, we’re going to have to have a continual negotiation. We don’t need artificial crises. I think we don’t need finger pointing either. What we need is not grandstanding, but understanding and agreements. And that requires hard and serious work. It actually requires that we do not put before you, gentlemen and ladies of the press, everything that we’re discussing, but to have these real discussions inside in a sustained effort to bridge historic gaps and provide security. I’m fully committed and Israel is fully committed to such an effort. And I hope the Palestinians are committed to this goal as well.
I want to thank you, John, for your tireless effort. I use that word carefully, “tireless” and indefatigable. You continue to pursue this quest for peace. I appreciate it, and I welcome it. And I also welcome the opportunity to continue our discussions this evening and tomorrow and beyond. So welcome to Jerusalem, again.
SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you, my friend. Well, Mr. Prime Minister, my friend, Bibi, I am very, very happy to be back in Israel. It’s always a pleasure for me to visit. And I have visited here so many times, as a United States Senator, and now as a Secretary of State.
I’ve had the privilege of getting to know many people here, many parts of this great country. When I first came here – I think in 1986 – I spent a week and traveled to every part of the country, climbed Masada, bathed in the Dead Sea, went to Galilee, the north, visited Kiryat Shmona, where kids were having to hide from rockets, Katyusha rockets, then indiscriminately attacking them from Lebanon. And I have seen the rockets in Sderot from people who were taking cover from Gaza.
So I understand the challenge of security that Israel faces. I understand it very well. And I join with President Obama in expressing to the people of Israel our deep, deep commitment to the security of Israel and to the need to find a peace that recognizes Israel as a Jewish state, recognizes Israel as a country that can defend itself by itself, and that is an important principle with which the prime minister and the President and I are in agreement.
Much of our discussion in the very beginning obviously focused on where we are with respect to Iran. I can’t emphasize enough that Israel’s security in this negotiation is at the top of our agenda. And the United States will do everything in our power to make certain that Iran’s nuclear program – a program of weaponization possibilities – is terminated. We agree on what the goal of the final status agreement ought to be. And in the days and weeks ahead, we will consult very closely and continually with our Israeli friends in order to bring about a comprehensive agreement that can withstand everybody’s test. A peaceful program should not be that hard to prove, and everybody will know whether or not in the end the comprehensive agreement actually provides a test adequate to prove the peacefulness of that program.
We will continue to keep our friends in Israel and our friends in the region fully advised as we continue those negotiations. And for the moment, we’re in the process of simply putting in place the implementation language itself.
With respect to the sanctions, we will obviously be vigilant. We say to any country that contemplates moving ahead of sanctions, don’t, because those sanctions will continue to be enforced. The fundamental sanctions regime of oil and banking remains absolutely in place. It is not changed, and we will be stepping up our efforts of enforcement through the Treasury Department and through the appropriate agencies of the United States.
We obviously also spent a very significant amount of time – and we will continue those discussions tonight – with respect to the direct negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians. We have always known that this is a difficult, complicated road, and we understand that. I believe we are making some progress, and the parties remain committed to this task. They are meeting regularly, and they have also remained – we have remained in very close touch with both leaders as we proceed down this road.
Once again, Israel’s security is fundamental to these negotiations. And today, General John Allen, who is one of the very best military minds in the United States, one of our most experienced military leaders, who has been spending months now analyzing the security challenges with respect to this process – President Obama has designated him to play a very special role in assessing the potential threats to Israel, to the region, and ensuring that the security arrangements that we might contemplate in the context of this process will provide for greater security for Israel. This morning, General Allen and I provided Prime Minister Netanyahu and his military leadership with some thoughts about that particular security challenge. And this conversation will continue over dinner and possibly into tomorrow morning.
At some point in time – it depends a little on our talks here – I look forward to visiting the Palmachim Airbase and doing so with Minister Moshe Ya’alon. I don’t know if we’ll have time to do that tomorrow or not, but I do want to do that because I want to see firsthand the remarkable ballistic missile defense technologies in place that our nation has spent over 20 years building with our friends here in Israel in order to protect Israel from the full range of missile threats that it faces. And the advancement of these programs in recent years I think is a reflection of President Obama’s and his Administration’s strong commitment, unwavering commitment, to Israel’s security. It’s appropriate that at some point I get a chance to see how that is implemented and how it is working.
So I’d just close by saying what perhaps doesn’t need to be said, but I want to say it: The bond between the United States and Israel is unbreakable. And while occasionally we might have a difference of a tactical measure, we do not have a difference about the fundamental strategy that we both seek with respect to the security of Israel and the long-term peace of this region. And we will continue to work for that. And I thank my many Israel friends for their embrace and for their patience as we pursue this complicated process.
Thank you, Prime Minister.