Remarks With Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Chief of Mission's Residence
Rome, Italy
June 27, 2016

SECRETARY KERRY: Good morning, everybody. I’m delighted to welcome the prime minister of Israel, my friend Bibi Netanyahu, to the American residence here in Rome, which he is very familiar with. We spent quite a few hours here in the garden, in this room, and elsewhere talking.

We had a very long meeting last night in which we discussed many different issues, but we focused significantly on the challenge of beating back terrorism and beating back terrorism specifically with respect to Israel’s challenge in the Sinai and the Golan Heights, where ISIL is now visible and positioned in places, and also the challenge of violence coming from extremism – Gaza and the West Bank. We had a very productive conversation about that and we talked at some length about ways in which we might be able to try to work to move things in a more positive direction.

We also talked about the progress being made – the significant progress being made by the prime minister in his discussions with Turkey, and we obviously have been encouraging a movement towards a resolution of the differences between Turkey and Israel.

And finally, we did talk at some length about the economic challenge and particularly some of the countries in the region which are witnessing a transformational kind of set of hurdles – Egypt particularly with respect to its economic transformation, which has to come at the same time as it is fighting back against terrorism. And we discussed how we can work together with other countries in the region in order to deal with those issues.

And of course, finally, we talked about Brexit – impossible not to – and how that might or might not affect all economies. And I think we came to the conclusion that, managed properly with leadership and effort by all of the parties to calm the waters and move in a steady way, that we can get through this – also another transformation, transition – and do so, hopefully minimizing any kind of collateral negative effect.

Most importantly, Israel is, as everybody knows and we reiterate again and again, a critical ally and friend of the United States. And Israel continues to be facing significant challenges – we talked about those – in the ways in which hopefully, with good effort by all leaders, we could try to change the direction and find a positive way to affect the lives of everybody – Israelis, Palestinians, people in the neighboring countries – and move towards a more stable and peaceful future.

Mr. Prime Minister, thanks for being here.

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Thank you, John, for dinner and breakfast, and for our conversations. I welcome the opportunity to have the, I will say, probing talks on the region on the challenges and on the opportunities with my good friend, John Kerry. These are serious talks by two committed allies, Israel and the United States.

We discussed everything that the Secretary spoke about, challenges in the region from ISIL, East, West, South. We discussed not only American-Israeli security cooperation, but security cooperation in a larger regional context. We discussed how we could advance a process with the Palestinians, difficult though it may be. We discussed regional implications for stabilizing the Middle East, moving it to a place where it would be less convulsive. And we discussed some bilateral issues between us. This was a far-ranging discussion that I think was meant to bring us both in a common direction for common purposes and I found it very valuable. Thank you.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you very much. Thank you all very, very much.

QUESTION: Secretary Kerry, (inaudible) bilateral (inaudible)?

QUESTION: Mr. Kerry, did you discuss the MOU?

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Let me say this: I updated Secretary Kerry about our agreement with Turkey, which we will show at noon. I think it’s an important step here to normalize relations on one side. It has also immense implications for the Israeli economy – and I use that word advisedly – immense implications for the Israeli economy, and I mean positive immense implications. A lot of other things were discussed and will be discussed today, but I remember a meeting that I had with Secretary Kerry quite some time ago when we discussed it, and with Vice President Biden, whom I called yesterday, who met me a couple years ago in Davos, brought his oil expert – his gas expert – and he said this will create the foundations – part of the foundations of the future of your economy. That has been uppermost in my mind and I’ll say more about that today at lunch.

MR KIRBY: Thanks, everybody.

SECRETARY KERRY: So if I could just say – because I wanted the prime minister to say something about it, it shouldn’t have come from me – but first of all, we welcome – the United States welcomes this step. It is something we have talked about for several years, as the prime minister said. I’m proud to say that the Vice President’s oil expert is the State Department’s oil expert – (laughter) – and Amos Hochstein did a great job on this too and the Vice President’s been pushing this all along. So, we are obviously pleased in the Administration. This is a step we wanted to see happen.

I think when President Obama came to Israel, there was a famous phone call on the tarmac of the airport to Turkey as we tried to move things forward, so this is coming full circle, and Mr. Prime Minister, I congratulate you. I know your team has been working long and hard at this. I think it’s a positive step, one of, I hope, the beginning of others. Thank you. Appreciate it.

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Thank you. Thank you all.

MR KIRBY: Thanks, everybody. Thanks. That’s going to do it for today.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thanks, everybody.