Obama, Netanyahu at White House seek to mend US-Israel ties
Updated: 2015-11-10 09:49
Demonstrators protest against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's visit in front of the White House in Washington, DC, November 9, 2015. [Photo/Agencies]
The meeting was seen as an important step in negotiations for a new 10-year US defense aid pact, which could help burnish the right-wing prime minister's security credentials, challenged by the violence at home.
Israel receives $3.1 billion from the United States annually and wants $5 billion per year for the next package, for a total of $50 billion over a decade, congressional officials have told Reuters. One US official predicted the sides would settle for an annual sum of $4 billion to $5 billion.
Obama's tangible support for Israel's security could help deflect accusations from Republican presidential hopefuls that he and any Democratic successor are less pro-Israel than they profess to be.
"The security of Israel is one of my top foreign policy priorities, and that has expressed itself not only in words, but in deeds," Obama said.
Netanyahu thanked Obama for that commitment.
The dispute over the deal that Iran reached in July with world powers, which calls for curbs on its nuclear program in return for sanctions relief, had driven an already rocky relationship between the two leaders to a new low.
Obama refused to see Netanyahu in March when the Israeli leader accepted an invitation from Republican leaders, without consulting the White House, and gave a speech to Congress in which he harshly criticized Obama's negotiations with Iran.
"It's no secret that the prime minister and I have had a strong disagreement on this narrow issue, but we don't have a disagreement on the need to making sure that Iran does not get a nuclear weapon," Obama said.
Now that Netanyahu has lost his fight against the Iran accord, he and Obama appeared determined to try to put relations on an even keel.
At the same time, Netanyahu was seeking to use his visit to patch up relations with some Democrats, who felt his fight against the Iran deal damaged the bipartisan consensus in Congress on Israel's security, and heal a rift with more liberal segments of the American Jewish community.
He was due to address the conservative American Enterprise Institute on Monday as well as the liberal Center for American Progress on Tuesday.