U.S Department of State
Remarks to the Press
Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State
Prime Minister’s Office
August 24, 2020
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Secretary Pompeo, our wonderful friend Mike, it’s good to see you back in Jerusalem. I counted and I think we’ve – this is our 12th meeting since you became Secretary of State. This doesn’t include dozens and dozens of telephone calls. We have met here in Jerusalem and in Washington and in so many places in between, but every meeting was characterized by that same powerful alliance of values that has informed your activity and the activity of the Trump administration that cements even further the historic American-Israeli alliance. I want to thank you, I want to thank the President, for all that you’ve done for Israel’s security and everything you’re doing to solidify this friendship.
There are two things, two great things that have happened since our last meeting. The first is that you have stood up to Iran’s aggression and triggered the snapback sanctions. I want to commend you for doing so. I think people should realize that the Iran deal failed just as we predicted. Not only did it not mollify Iran’s aggression, it fueled it, it increased it. And we’ve seen Iran, since the JCPOA was concluded, emerging from its cage and devouring one country after another, targeting countries with rockets, with terrorism, with pillage and plunder and murder – murder – all over the Middle East and even beyond the Middle East, including into your hemisphere.
And in fact, to see the Security Council not only not join the American snapback sanctions but resist it or stand on the sidelines and allow this embargo on Iranian arms shipments – shipments to Iran – to agree to it I think is outrageous. That means that this regime will get tanks and aircraft and missiles and anti-aircraft defenses to continue its campaign of aggression throughout the region and the world. It’s just absurd. So I want to congratulate you for standing there. We stand with you.
I have to say that quite a few years ago I had to stand sometimes alone in publicly rejecting the JCPOA and alerting the world on Iran’s aggression. That obviously changed with the inauguration of President Trump and everything that you have done since, but I think it’s important to point out that today we hear Gulf countries, countries in the Gulf, speak out as forcefully as I’m doing now. And I think that I would suggest to our friends, especially our European friends, this point: that when Arabs and Israelis agree on something, it makes sense to pay attention. So congratulations on the stand on the snapback and on the – your overall opposition to Iran’s aggression and its quest for nuclear weapons.
The second thing that has happened is equally historic, and that is the achievement of the Israeli-Emirati peace agreement, the creation of full normalization between Israel and the United Arab Emirates. This has been brokered by President Trump with your assistance, and it has been a boon to peace and to regional stability. I think it heralds a new era where we could have other nations join. We discussed this and I hope we’ll have good news in the future, maybe in the near future. I think it makes sense. We have two of the most advanced economies in the world brimming with innovation, Israel and the UAE. It’s a natural fit. And the support of the United States makes this, I think, something with international ramifications.
This is the alliance of the moderates against the radicals, against the – those who use violence and aggression to further their aims against those who believe that we can offer a better people – a better future for our people through cooperation. It’s – I think it spells a change in the Middle East. It’s the first time in a quarter of a century that we have a peace agreement, and I want to thank again the President and you and your administration for helping bring it about. I have to say simply that this deal did not include Israel’s acceptance of any arms deal and I don’t know of any arms deal that has been agreed upon. It may be contemplated; our position hasn’t changed.
But I also learned from Secretary Pompeo – heard again a very, very strong commitment that under all circumstances, the United States will ensure Israel’s qualitative edge. That has been prove to be true over four decades of peace with Egypt, two and a half decades of peace with Jordan. The United States stood by that commitment, and I know – have no doubt that it will continue to do so. So Mike, I want to thank you for your friendship and for your support in the quest for peace and security, which we’re actually achieving. Thank you, and welcome.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Amen, amen. Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Prime Minister. Thank you for the warm welcome. It is great to be back again. As you said, this – I’m a frequent visitor here, and each time we build on the relationship, both our military relationship that gets focused on our security relationship, but also our economic relationship too, building out opportunities. We talked about chances for our countries to work together as the whole world tries to push back against this virus that came from Wuhan, China, and I’m confident there are places which our medical systems and pharmaceutical companies will build out a good solution to keep Israelis, Americans, and people all across the world safer and healthier in the weeks and months ahead.
I appreciate your support. President Trump’s made clear: Iran will never have a nuclear weapon. And we are determined to use every tool that we have to ensure that they can’t get access to high-end weapon systems, air defense systems, the ones that the prime minister spoke of. We think it’s in the best interest of the whole world – many of these leaders tell me so privately. It’s time to stand up. It’s time to publicly account for the fact that Iran is on the cusp on October 18th of having access to those weapons and the money that will come from their sale of those weapons that will be used to inflict real harm, not only in the Middle East but in Europe as well. And so I’m confident that we’ll achieve that and I welcome Israeli and Gulf state support for our effort. The people most impacted by Iran having weapon systems are all in favor of this arms embargo being extended. The rest of the world should join us.
We had a chance to – I wanted to come here today in part to congratulate the prime minister. I’ll travel to the Emirates to meet with them and congratulate them too. What’s taken place here is deeply consistent with what President Trump set out to do: create a more stable, more prosperous Middle East. This is a really good step in that direction – economic relationships between the Emirates, opportunities for innovation and science. Travel between these two places will now be open and that’s important. That’s important to create, between Israel and this Arab state, this opportunity.
The prime minister spoke to the security commitments that were made. The United States has a legal requirement with respect to qualitative military edge. We will continue to honor that. But we have a 20-plus year security relationship with the United Arab Emirates as well, where we have provided them with technical assistance and military assistance. We will now continue to review that process to continue to make sure that we’re delivering them with the equipment that they need to secure and defend their own people from this same threat, from the Islamic Republic of Iran as well. We are deeply committed to doing that, to achieving that, and we’ll do it in a way that preserves our commitment to Israel as well. I’m confident that both of these objectives can be achieved.
And I’ve watched, I’ve watched over these last days as there have been the first inklings of the benefits – you were telling a story about a young person playing piano – I think we’ll see stories like this as I travel through the rest of this trip. I’m very hopeful that we will see other Arab nations join in this. The opportunity for them to work alongside – to recognize the state of Israel and to work alongside them will not only increase Middle East stability, but it will improve the lives in each of the – for the people of their own countries as well.
We talked a little bit about the challenge that the Chinese Communist Party presents to the entire world. I think the world is now seeing this. And then lastly, President Trump told me I would be remiss if I didn’t once again say thank you for all that you have done to work alongside us to keep this security, to keep this relationship built. We’ve done our part in moving the embassy here, by recognizing the reality of what the Golan Heights is, by acknowledging that these settlements are not per se unlawful. These are the kinds of things that nations can do together to work to increase this security and stability for our two countries and for the region as well. It has been a great relationship, it will continue to be a great relationship, and it was an honor for me to be with you here again today, Mr. Prime Minister.
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Thank you. You came on a day when the mask on Theodor Herzl’s statue has been —
SECRETARY POMPEO: (Laughter.)
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: It’s right behind you there – has been removed. But Secretary spoke about cooperation and COVID. We just had an interesting discussion about that. The United States obviously is leading the world in this effort; Israel is making its own effort. We are exploring now the possibility of combining our efforts, joining in ways to find both a vaccine and other ways to alleviate this horrible disease. In this, as in any other field, we have no better friends than the United States of America. Thank you, Mr. Secretary.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you, Mr. Prime Minister.
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Thank you.