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Obama: ‘Bibi and I have a terrific, businesslike relationship’

JTA

March 14, 2013 | 1:59 pm

President Barack Obama with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Washington ion March 5, 2012. Photo by Jason Reed/Reuters

President Barack Obama with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Washington ion March 5, 2012. Photo by Jason Reed/Reuters

President Obama said he and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have "a terrific, businesslike relationship."

"We get stuff done," Obama told an interviewer from Israel's Channel 2 in an interview aired Thursday night, in advance of his visit to Israel next week.

Obama said the fact that his government is more center-left and Netanyahu's more to the right has put a "strain" on the governments, but that it is "not personal."

"There have been times when Bibi and I have had differences, but the relationship between our countries is so strong," Obama said, adding that the differences "are bridged and resolved."

Obama reiterated that his goal during his trip is to listen and to speak directly to the Israeli people as often as he can. When asked why it took him so long as president to visit Israel, Obama said that there have been "some big crises in the United States."

On the topic of Jonathan Pollard, the spy for Israel in prison in the United States, Obama said he has "no plans of releasing Jonathan Pollard immediately." He said the U.S. justice system, with its system of periodic reviews of early release for prisoners, should be allowed to take its course. "I recognize the emotions involved in this," Obama said. "I am sympathetic, but as president my first duty is to observe the law in the United States and make sure it is applied consistently."

Obama said he regretted that as president he cannot wander the streets of the Old City of Jerusalem or go to a bar in Tel Aviv and meet regular Israelis.

On Iran, Obama said that "all options are on the table" but that there is still time for sanctions to work.

On the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Obama said it is essential for Israel to resolve the Palestinian issue and that it would be "good for Israeli security." He added, "Obviously Israel cannot resolve it by itself, but it should not stop trying."

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