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Remarks by President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel in

Wednesday, February 15, 2017 17:25
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The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
February 15, 2017
Remarks by President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel in Joint
Press Conference
[As prepared by White House stenographer in real time]

East Room

12:15 P.M. EST

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Thank you very much. Thank you. Today I have the honor
of welcoming my friend, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to the White
House. With this visit, the United States again reaffirms our unbreakable
bond with our cherished ally, Israel. The partnership between our two
countries built on our shared values has advanced the cause of human
freedom, dignity and peace. These are the building blocks of democracy.

The state of Israel is a symbol to the world of resilience in the face of
oppression — I can think of no other state that’s gone through what they’ve
gone — and of survival in the face of genocide. We will never forget what
the Jewish people have endured.

Your perseverance in the face of hostility, your open democracy in the face
of violence, and your success in the face of tall odds is truly
inspirational. The security challenges faced by Israel are enormous,
including the threat of Iran’s nuclear ambitions, which I’ve talked a lot
about. One of the worst deals I’ve ever seen is the Iran deal. My
administration has already imposed new sanctions on Iran, and I will do more
to prevent Iran from ever developing — I mean ever — a nuclear weapon.

Our security assistance to Israel is currently at an all-time high, ensuring
that Israel has the ability to defend itself from threats of which there are
unfortunately many. Both of our countries will continue and grow. We have
a long history of cooperation in the fight against terrorism and the fight
against those who do not value human life. America and Israel are two
nations that cherish the value of all human life.

This is one more reason why I reject unfair and one-sided actions against
Israel at the United Nations — just treated Israel, in my opinion, very,
very unfairly — or other international forums, as well as boycotts that
target Israel. Our administration is committed to working with Israel and
our common allies in the region towards greater security and stability.
That includes working toward a peace agreement between Israel and the
Palestinians. The United States will encourage a peace and, really, a great
peace deal. We’ll be working on it very, very diligently. Very important
to me also — something we want to do. But it is the parties themselves who
must directly negotiate such an agreement. We’ll be beside them; we’ll be
working with them.

As with any successful negotiation, both sides will have to make
compromises. You know that, right? (Laughter.)


PRESIDENT TRUMP: I want the Israeli people to know that the United States
stands with Israel in the struggle against terrorism. As you know, Mr.
Prime Minister, our two nations will always condemn terrorist acts. Peace
requires nations to uphold the dignity of human life and to be a voice for
all of those who are endangered and forgotten.

Those are the ideals to which we all, and will always, aspire and commit.
This will be the first of many productive meetings. And I, again, Mr. Prime
Minister, thank you very much for being with us today.

Mr. Prime Minister, thank you.

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: President Trump, thank you for the truly warm
hospitality you and Melania have shown me, my wife Sara, our entire
delegation. I deeply value your friendship. To me, to the state of Israel,
it was so clearly evident in the words you just spoke — Israel has no
better ally than the United States. And I want to assure you, the United
States has no better ally than Israel.

Our alliance has been remarkably strong, but under your leadership I’m
confident it will get even stronger. I look forward to working with you to
dramatically upgrade our alliance in every field — in security, in
technology, in cyber and trade, and so many others. And I certainly welcome
your forthright call to ensure that Israel is treated fairly in
international forums, and that the slander and boycotts of Israel are
resisted mightily by the power and moral position of the United States of

As you have said, our alliance is based on a deep bond of common values and
common interests. And, increasingly, those values and interests are under
attack by one malevolent force: radical Islamic terror. Mr. President, you’ve
shown great clarity and courage in confronting this challenge head-on. You
call for confronting Iran’s terrorist regime, preventing Iran from realizing
this terrible deal into a nuclear arsenal. And you have said that the
United States is committed to preventing Iran from getting nuclear weapons.
You call for the defeat of ISIS. Under your leadership, I believe we can
reverse the rising tide of radical Islam. And in this great task, as in so
many others, Israel stands with you and I stand with you.

Mr. President, in rolling back militant Islam, we can seize an historic
opportunity — because, for the first time in my lifetime, and for the first
time in the life of my country, Arab countries in the region do not see
Israel as an enemy, but, increasingly, as an ally. And I believe that under
your leadership, this change in our region creates an unprecedented
opportunity to strengthen security and advance peace.

Let us seize this moment together. Let us bolster security. Let us seek
new avenues of peace. And let us bring the remarkable alliance between
Israel and the United States to even greater heights.

Thank you. Thank you, Mr. President.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Thank you. Again, thank you.

We’ll take a couple of questions. David Brody, Christian Broadcasting.

Q Thank you, Mr. President, Mr. Prime Minister. Both of you have
criticized the Iran nuclear deal, and at times even called for its repeal.
I’m wondering if you’re concerned at all as it relates to not just the
National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn, who is recently no longer here,
but also some of those events that have been going on with communication in
Russia — if that is going to hamper this deal at all, and whether or not it
would keep Iran from becoming a nuclear state.

And secondly, on the settlement issue, are you both on the same page? How
do you exactly term that as it relates to the settlement issue? Thank you.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Michael Flynn, General Flynn is a wonderful man. I think
he’s been treated very, very unfairly by the media — as I call it, the fake
media, in many cases. And I think it’s really a sad thing that he was
treated so badly. I think, in addition to that, from intelligence — papers
are being leaked, things are being leaked. It’s criminal actions, criminal
act, and it’s been going on for a long time — before me. But now it’s
really going on, and people are trying to cover up for a terrible loss that
the Democrats had under Hillary Clinton.

I think it’s very, very unfair what’s happened to General Flynn, the way he
was treated, and the documents and papers that were illegally — I stress
that — illegally leaked. Very, very unfair.

As far as settlements, I’d like to see you hold back on settlements for a
little bit. We’ll work something out. But I would like to see a deal be
made. I think a deal will be made. I know that every President would like
to. Most of them have not started until late because they never thought it
was possible. And it wasn’t possible because they didn’t do it.

But Bibi and I have known each other a long time — a smart man, great
negotiator. And I think we’re going to make a deal. It might be a bigger
and better deal than people in this room even understand. That’s a
possibility. So let’s see what we do.


PRESIDENT TRUMP: Doesn’t sound too optimistic, but — (laughter) — he’s a
good negotiator.

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: That’s the “art of the deal.” (Laughter.)

PRESIDENT TRUMP: I also want to thank — I also want to thank — Sara,
could you please stand up? You’re so lovely and you’ve been so nice to
Melania. I appreciate it very much. (Applause.) Thank you.

Your turn.

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Yes, please. Go ahead.

Q Thank you very much. Mr. President, in your vision for the new Middle
East peace, are you ready to give up the notion of two-state solution that
was adopted by previous administration? And will you be willing to hear
different ideas from the Prime Minister, as some of his partners are asking
him to do, for example, annexation of parts of the West Bank and
unrestricted settlement constructions? And one more question: Are you
going to fulfill your promise to move the U.S. embassy in Israel to
Jerusalem? And if so, when?

And, Mr. Prime Minister, did you come here tonight to tell the President
that you’re backing off the two-state solution?

Thank you.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: So I’m looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the
one that both parties like. (Laughter.) I’m very happy with the one that
both parties like. I can live with either one.

I thought for a while the two-state looked like it may be the easier of the
two. But honestly, if Bibi and if the Palestinians — if Israel and the
Palestinians are happy, I’m happy with the one they like the best.

As far as the embassy moving to Jerusalem, I’d love to see that happen.
We’re looking at it very, very strongly. We’re looking at it with great
care — great care, believe me. And we’ll see what happens. Okay?

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Thank you. I read yesterday that an American
official said that if you ask five people what two states would look like,
you’d get eight different answers. Mr. President, if you ask five Israelis,
you’d get 12 different answers. (Laughter.)

But rather than deal with labels, I want to deal with substance. It’s
something I’ve hoped to do for years in a world that’s absolutely fixated on
labels and not on substance. So here’s the substance: There are two
prerequisites for peace that I laid out two years — several years ago, and
they haven’t changed.

First, the Palestinians must recognize the Jewish state. They have to stop
calling for Israel’s destruction. They have to stop educating their people
for Israel’s destruction.

Second, in any peace agreement, Israel must retain the overriding security
control over the entire area west of the Jordan River. Because if we don’t,
we know what will happen — because otherwise we’ll get another radical
Islamic terrorist state in the Palestinian areas exploding the peace,
exploding the Middle East.

Now, unfortunately, the Palestinians vehemently reject both prerequisites
for peace. First, they continue to call for Israel’s destruction — inside
their schools, inside their mosques, inside the textbooks. You have to read
it to believe it.

They even deny, Mr. President, our historical connection to our homeland.
And I suppose you have to ask yourself: Why do – - why are Jews called
Jews? Well, the Chinese are called Chinese because they come from China.
The Japanese are called Japanese because they come from Japan. Well, Jews
are called Jews because they come from Judea. This is our ancestral
homeland. Jews are not foreign colonialists in Judea.

So, unfortunately, the Palestinians not only deny the past, they also poison
the present. They name public squares in honor of mass murderers who
murdered Israelis, and I have to say also murdered Americans. They fund –
they pay monthly salaries to the families of murderers, like the family of
the terrorist who killed Taylor Force, a wonderful young American, a West
Point graduate, who was stabbed to death while visiting Israel.

So this is the source of the conflict — the persistent Palestinian refusal
to recognize the Jewish state in any boundary; this persistent rejection.
That’s the reason we don’t have peace. Now, that has to change. I want it
to change. Not only have I not abandoned these two prerequisites of peace;
they’ve become even more important because of the rising tide of fanaticism
that has swept the Middle East and has also, unfortunately, infected
Palestinian society.

So I want this to change. I want those two prerequisites of peace –
substance, not labels — I want them reinstated. But if anyone believes
that I, as Prime Minister of Israel, responsible for the security of my
country, would blindly walk into a Palestinian terrorist state that seeks
the destruction of my country, they’re gravely mistaken.

The two prerequisites of peace — recognition of the Jewish state, and
Israel’s security needs west of the Jordan — they remain pertinent. We
have to look for new ways, new ideas on how to reinstate them and how to
move peace forward. And I believe that the great opportunity for peace
comes from a regional approach from involving our newfound Arab partners in
the pursuit of a broader peace and peace with the Palestinians.

And I greatly look forward to discussing this in detail with you, Mr.
President, because I think that if we work together, we have a shot.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: And we have been discussing that, and it is something that
is very different, hasn’t been discussed before. And it’s actually a much
bigger deal, a much more important deal, in a sense. It would take in many,
many countries and it would cover a very large territory. So I didn’t know
you were going to be mentioning that, but that’s — now that you did, I
think it’s a terrific thing and I think we have some pretty good cooperation
from people that in the past would never, ever have even thought about doing
this. So we’ll see how that works out.

Katie from Townhall. Where’s Katie? Right there. Katie.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. You said in your earlier remarks that both
sides will have to make compromises when it comes to a peace deal. You’ve
mentioned a halt on settlements. Can you lay out a few more specific
compromises that you have in mind, both for the Israelis and for the

And, Mr. Prime Minister, what expectations do you have from the new
administration about how to either amend the Iran nuclear agreement or how
to dismantle it altogether, and how to overall work with the new
administration to combat Iran’s increased aggression, not only in the last
couple of months but the past couple of years as well?

PRESIDENT TRUMP: It’s actually an interesting question. I think that the
Israelis are going to have to show some flexibility, which is hard, it’s
hard to do. They’re going to have to show the fact that they really want to
make a deal. I think our new concept that we’ve been discussing actually
for a while is something that allows them to show more flexibility than they
have in the past because you have a lot bigger canvas to play with. And I
think they’ll do that.

I think they very much would like to make a deal or I wouldn’t be happy and
I wouldn’t be here and I wouldn’t be as optimistic as I am. I really think
they — I can tell you from the standpoint of Bibi and from the standpoint
of Israel, I really believe they want to make a deal and they’d like to see
the big deal.

I think the Palestinians have to get rid of some of that hate that they’re
taught from a very young age. They’re taught tremendous hate. I’ve seen
what they’re taught. And you can talk about flexibility there too, but it
starts at a very young age and it starts in the school room. And they have
to acknowledge Israel — they’re going to have to do that. There’s no way a
deal can be made if they’re not ready to acknowledge a very, very great and
important country. And I think they’re going to be willing to do that also.
But now I also believe we’re going to have, Katie, other players at a very
high level, and I think it might make it easier on both the Palestinians and
Israel to get something done.

Okay? Thank you. Very interesting question. Thank you.

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: You asked about Iran. One thing is preventing
Iran from getting nuclear weapons — something that President Trump and I
think are deeply committed to do. And we are obviously going to discuss

I think, beyond that, President Trump has led a very important effort in the
past few weeks, just coming into the presidency. He pointed out there are
violations, Iranian violations on ballistic missile tests. By the way,
these ballistic missiles are inscribed in Hebrew, “Israel must be
destroyed.” The Palestinian — rather the Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif
said, well, our ballistic missiles are not intended against any country.
No. They write on the missile in Hebrew, “Israel must be destroyed.”

So challenging Iran on its violations of ballistic missiles, imposing
sanctions on Hezbollah, preventing them, making them pay for the terrorism
that they foment throughout the Middle East and beyond, well beyond — I
think that’s a change that is clearly evident since President Trump took
office. I welcome that. I think it’s — let me say this very openly: I
think it’s long overdue, and I think that if we work together — and not
just the United States and Israel, but so many others in the region who see
eye to eye on the great magnitude and danger of the Iranian threat, then I
think we can roll back Iran’s aggression and danger. And that’s something
that is important for Israel, the Arab states, but I think it’s vitally
important for America. These guys are developing ICBMs. They’re
developing — they want to get to a nuclear arsenal, not a bomb, a hundred
bombs. And they want to have the ability to launch them everywhere on
Earth, and including, and especially, eventually, the United States.

So this is something that is important for all of us. I welcome the change,
and I intend to work with President Trump very closely so that we can thwart
this danger.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Great. Do you have somebody?


Q Mr. President, since your election campaign and even after your
victory, we’ve seen a sharp rise in anti-Semitic incidents across the United
States. And I wonder what you say to those among the Jewish community in
the States, and in Israel, and maybe around the world who believe and feel
that your administration is playing with xenophobia and maybe racist tones.

And, Mr. Prime Minister, do you agree to what the President just said about
the need for Israel to restrain or to stop settlement activity in the West
Bank? And a quick follow-up on my friend’s questions — simple question:
Do you back off from your vision to the end of the conflict of two-state
solution as you laid out in Bar-Ilan speech, or you still support it? Thank

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, I just want to say that we are very honored by the
victory that we had — 306 Electoral College votes. We were not supposed to
crack 220. You know that, right? There was no way to 221, but then they
said there’s no way to 270. And there’s tremendous enthusiasm out there.

I will say that we are going to have peace in this country. We are going to
stop crime in this country. We are going to do everything within our power
to stop long-simmering racism and every other thing that’s going on, because
lot of bad things have been taking place over a long period of time.

I think one of the reasons I won the election is we have a very, very
divided nation. Very divided. And, hopefully, I’ll be able to do something
about that. And, you know, it was something that was very important to me.

As far as people — Jewish people — so many friends, a daughter who happens
to be here right now, a son-in-law, and three beautiful grandchildren. I
think that you’re going to see a lot different United States of America over
the next three, four, or eight years. I think a lot of good things are
happening, and you’re going to see a lot of love. You’re going to see a lot
of love. Okay? Thank you.

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: I believe that the issue of the settlements is
not the core of the conflict, nor does it really drive the conflict. I
think it’s an issue, it has to be resolved in the context of peace
negotiations. And I think we also are going to speak about it, President
Trump and I, so we can arrive at an understanding so we don’t keep on
bumping into each other all the time on this issue. And we’re going to
discuss this.

On the question you said, you just came back with your question to the
problem that I said. It’s the label. What does Abu Mazen mean by two
states, okay? What does he mean? A state that doesn’t recognize the Jewish
state? A state that basically is open for attack against Israel? What are
we talking about? Are we talking about Costa Rica, or are we talking about
another Iran?

So obviously it means different things. I told you what are the conditions
that I believe are necessary for an agreement: It’s the recognition of the
Jewish state and it’s Israel’s — Israel’s — security control of the entire
area. Otherwise we’re just fantasizing. Otherwise we’ll get another failed
state, another terrorist Islamist dictatorship that will not work for peace
but work to destroy us but also destroy any hope — any hope — for a
peaceful future for our people.

So I’ve been very clear about those conditions, and they haven’t changed. I
haven’t changed. If you read what I said eight years ago, it’s exactly
that. And I repeated that again, and again, and again. If you want to deal
with labels, deal with labels. I’ll deal with substance.

And finally, if I can respond to something that I know from personal
experience. I’ve known President Trump for many years, and to allude to
him, or to his people — his team, some of whom I’ve known for many years,
too. Can I reveal, Jared, how long we’ve known you? (Laughter.) Well, he
was never small. He was always big. He was always tall.

But I’ve known the President and I’ve known his family and his team for a
long time, and there is no greater supporter of the Jewish people and the
Jewish state than President Donald Trump. I think we should put that to

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Thank you very much. Very nice. I appreciate that very


12:42 P.M. EST


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