Netanyahu to Obama: ‘Israel Must Have the Ability to Defend Itself’

By Fred Lucas | March 5, 2012 | 1:01 PM EST

President Obama shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu during their meeting at the U.N. in New York on Wednesday, Sept., 21, 2011. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

( – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made it clear at the White House Monday that Israel was ready to go it alone in defending against the threat of a nuclear Iran, saying that “my supreme responsibility as prime minister of Israel is to ensure that Israel remains the master of its fate.”

Netanyahu and President Barack Obama spoke to a small gathering of media in the Oval Office before further meeting throughout the day. They did not take questions. The two leaders are said to have a chilled relationship for a number of reasons, one being that the Obama administration is seeking restraint in dealing with Iran, while Israel considers a pre-emptive strike against their nuclear sites.

Netanyahu talked of the close bond between Israel and the United States, but said his country has the right to self defense.

“Israel must have the ability always to defend itself by itself against any threat. And when it comes to Israel’s security, Israel has the right – the sovereign right – to make its own decisions,” the prime minister said. “I believe that’s why you appreciate Mr. President that Israel must reserve the right to defend itself. And, after all, that’s the very purpose of the Jewish state to restore to the Jewish people control of our destinies. That’s why my supreme responsibility as prime minister of Israel is to ensure that Israel remains the master of its fate.”

Obama spoke first, stressing that the United States has led the world in imposing “crippling sanctions” on Iran and hoped for a diplomatic solutions. Still, he said the Iranian government is clearly not moving in that direction.

“We all know that it’s unacceptable from Israel’s perspective to have a country with a nuclear weapon that has called for the destruction of Israel,” Obama said. “As I emphasized yesterday, it is profoundly in the United States’ interests keeping Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. We do not want to see a nuclear arms race in one of the most volatile regions of the world. We do not want the possibility of a nuclear weapon falling into the hands of terrorists.”

He later added, “My policy is not one of containment. My policy is prevention of Iran obtaining nuclear weapons as I emphasized yesterday in my speech, when I said all options are on the table, I mean it.”

Both leaders talked about how Israel and America stand together and have common enemies.

“Iran leaders know that too. For them, you are the great Satan and we are the little Satan,” Netanyahu said. “For them, we are you, and you are us. You know something, Mr. President, at least on this last point, I think they’re right. We are you, and you are us. We’re together.”