President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were all smiles after they met Tuesday at the White House. But is it all for show? Today, CBS News anchor Katie Couric spoke with the prime minister in New York.
Couric: Do you trust Barack Obama?
Netanyahu: I trust Barack Obama, President of the United States to carry out with me the policies that have joined Israel and the United States. And what Barack Obama has called the "unbreakable bond." We have common goals, common interests. And we now have a job to do to get on with our common goal of achieving peace with security. I trust we'll be able to do that together.
Couric: While you want to accentuate the positive, clearly, that's part of your mission here in the United States, surely there have been disappointments with Obama Administration. Can you just be candid with me and tell me how the administration has disappointed you?
Netanyahu: You know, you remind me of the Israeli press. They say, "How come you had a good meeting with President Obama?" Well, because I did. Because we actually see eye to eye on some central issues. The quest for peace. The danger of Iran. The need to bolster security- for Israel and the region. That's the truth. We do see it. Have we had differences? Of course we have. But I think the differences …
Couric: Some awkward moments?
Netanyahu: Yeah, of course, we've had. So what? Even they are magnified and distorted. I think the president has a fine mind. And I can relate to it.
Couric: Can you explain this to me then? In a poll conducted a month ago, just a month ago, 71 percent of the Jews in Israel surveyed said they dislike President Obama - 47 percent expressed a strong dislike.
Netanyahu: Well, maybe they don't have the opportunity to have the kind of conversations that I had. And maybe they're not aware also the ongoing cooperation between Israel and the United States. In the fields of security, intelligence - the fact that-the Iron dome program to protect against missiles is something that has been bolstered by this administration and by this president. We have a common goal to achieve a secure peace. I'm looking forward to working with him to achieve it.
Couric: Well, to change public opinion in your country, should you be more strongly advocating on his behalf?
Netanyahu: You know, I invited the president to Israel. I hope that he finds an appropriate time to come. I think that when people get to know him and First Lady Michelle Obama was very kind to my wife. They gave us a very warm reception. I hope I'll be able to, will be able to reciprocate in Israel.
When President Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin met the press yesterday, both leaders expressed their solidarity in thwarting Iran's nuclear capabilities. The U.N. and United States have adopted strong sanctions. Netenyahu told Couric that he hopes they'll be effective.
Netanyahu: I hope that other nations and other leaders follow the U.S. and President Obama's lead and target hard sanctions against-- primarily against Iran's energy sector. This regime basically lives off oil and cannot do without the import of gasoline. If all that is done, I cannot tell you now, Katie, that it would stop the Iranian nuclear program. I can tell you that Iran is a very brutal regime. It brutalizes its own people. It sponsors terrorism, left and right, against my own country, against others. And it calls for the destruction of the Jewish state. I think it should not be allowed to have nuclear weapons.
Couric: If sanctions are not effective, will Israel take matters into its own hands? Would there be a unilateral strike against Iran?
Netanyahu: I've taken note of President Obama's statement, which he reiterated to me in this visit that the United States is determined to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. That all options are on the table. And I respect that. We obviously prefer that the international action led by the United States succeed. Israel was founded to protect Jewish lives. That's really what the tragedy of the Jewish people before the State of Israel was that we had no ability to defend ourselves. We always reserve the right of self-defense.
Couric: And one final question from Twitter.
Netanyahu: From Twitter?
Couric: Yeah, you Twitter, I understand. Or you tweet.
Netanyahu: I'm tweeted.
Couric: Well, someone asked this question. Mideast peace seems to be an oxymoron. We heard that a lot from people writing into us, when they found out I was doing this interview. How can you give people hope?
Netanyahu: That's what they said about Prime Minister Begin and President Sadat.
Couric: That was so long ago, Mr. Prime Minister.
Netanyahu: Well, isn't it about time we do it again? Isn't it about time that we actually sit down, the Prime Minister of Israel, myself, with President Abbas of the Palestinian Authority, with the help of President Obama? Let's sit down and let's solve this conflict.
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