Obama: US Commitment to Israel 'Rock Solid'

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WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama assured that the United States will stand by Israel, despite recent tension between the two countries over how to handle the growing threat from Iran.

The president hosted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Monday at the White House to discuss the Iranian nuclear program and other issues.

The Obama administration doesn't believe now is the time for military action against Iran, but Israel is already making moves for a possible strike.

During their critical meeting, Netanyahu told President Obama Israel must reserve the right to defend itself against Iran.

"My supreme responsibility as prime minister of Israel is to ensure that Israel remains the master of its fate," he said.

Click play for Jennifer Wishon's updated report followed by comments from CBN News Terrorism Analyst Erick Stakelbeck.

Obama agreed and explained why the U.S. also has an interest in preventing Iran from making a nuclear weapon.

"We do not want the possibility of a nuclear weapon falling into the hands of terrorists," he said. "And we do not want a regime that has been a state sponsor of terrorists being able to feel that it can act even more aggressively."

The leaders met for several hours. Obama assured Netanyahu that the "bond between Israel and U.S. is unbreakable."

"My commitment to Israel's security is rock solid," he said.

President Obama set the tone for the meeting at Sunday's annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference.

"There should not be a shred of doubt by now. When the chips are down, I have Israel's back," he said.

With international concerns over Iran's weapons program growing, Obama sought to make it clear the United States is standing by Israel at this critical time.

"There should not be a shred of doubt by now. When the chips are down, I have Israel's back," Obama said at Sunday's annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference.

Obama has been urging the Jewish state to give economic sanctions against Iran more time to work.

The president still thinks "diplomacy backed by pressure" against Iran will work. But he says Tehran must understand it's U.S. policy to prevent them from making a nuclear bomb.

"I will take no options off the table, and I mean what I say," Obama said, drawing applause from the AIPAC audience. "That includes all elements of American power."

Meanwhile, Netanyahu is looking for Obama's red line: the point at which the president is willing to use -- or support the use -- of military force.

It's a tough call since U.S. and Israeli intelligence won't necessarily know precisely when Iran has enriched enough uranium to produce a nuclear weapon.

"Their fear is that the experience with North Korea and some other countries -- Pakistan -- people say 'Oh, there's time, there's time. It's too early, too early, oops... too late,'" David Makovsky of the Washington Institute explained.

"So it's very important that the clocks of these two countries are synchronized," he said.

Makovsky said it's also important to synchronize their public messages to send a unified notice to Tehran.

Obama and Netanyahu have had a rocky relationship, an issue the president's critics often point out.

In a reminder that it's a presidential election year, the Democratic National Committee recently put out a Web video defending the president's record on Israel.

"If you want to know where my heart lies, look no further than what I have done to stand up for Israel, to secure both of our countries, and to see that the rough waters for our time lead to a peaceful and prosperous shore," the president said

Looking ahead to November, the Jewish vote is very important to the president. He won nearly 80 percent of it in 2008.

There's also the issue of gas prices. If Israel strikes Iran, Makovsky said Americans should watch out at the pump.

"I had an Arab foreign minister say to me, 'If Iran gets a nuclear bomb, they'll dominate the Gulf. They'll dominate the price of oil,' Makovsky said.

"If people think there's going to be a spike here -- this is just a little thing compared to what could be," he warned.

But for the people of Israel, temporary high gas prices may be a small price to pay to prevent Iran from gaining the ability to wipe them off the map.

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CBN News
Jennifer Wishon

Jennifer Wishon

CBN News White House Correspondent

Jennifer Wishon is the White House correspondent for CBN News based in the network’s Washington, D.C. Bureau.  Before taking over the White House beat, Jennifer covered Capitol Hill and other national news, from the economy to the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Follow Jennifer on Twitter @JenniferWishon and "like" her at Facebook.com/JennWishon.