In what may have been the most cordial meeting between U.S. President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu since Obama’s ascendancy to the White House, the two leaders discussed how to protect Israel’s interests during the ongoing civil war in neighboring Syria.
Netanyahu told the Israeli press concerning his meeting with Obama, “I told the president we will not accept any political solution that will leave Syria as a battleground for Iranian proxies to launch attacks against Israel. Any solution in Syria must include the halting of attacks from Syrian territory to Israel.”
The Israeli Prime Minister’s remarks come as Iran has increased its presence in Syria dramatically, deploying thousands of ground troops and even high-ranking commanders to assist Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad’s forces in contested areas throughout the state. Iran has also utilized its proxy, Hezbollah, to help turn the tide in Assad’s favor.
Netanyahu also told the President that Israel would be forced to act if his “red lines” were crossed, adding that he would not allow weapons to be smuggled from Syria to Lebanon and into the hands of Hezbollah terrorists.
The sit-down with Obama was “one of the best meetings we have had. Of course we have our disagreements, but there were no tensions whatsoever,” Netanyahu remarked. “We are very practical and moving forward, we have a mutual interest to make sure Iran abides by the agreement, and we have a mutual interest in stabilizing the Middle East.”
Another big topic discussed was U.S. defense aid to Israel. Reports have stated that Israel is hoping to increase U.S. aid from $3 billion a year to $5 billion. The boost in cash flow would allow for Israel to more easily afford its upcoming purchase of F-35 Fighter Jets and other advanced pieces of military hardware.
“We did not talk about numbers,” the Israeli leader said, but “the President accepts our positions on the regional dangers and strategic changes” that Israel faces.
Netanyahu said he reiterated that Israel is working to prevent “escalation” in dealing with the recent Palestinian terror campaign against Israelis.
It is Israel’s interest to prevent an eruption of violence. We can decrease the frictions, and we can prevent tensions, we are trying to distinguish between the general population and the inciters and terrorists, and prevent violence from spreading more – and that is the spirit of the steps we will be suggesting.
The Israeli Prime Minister is set to meet with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday. The two will discuss the ongoing violence in Israel and the West Bank, according to reports.