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Obama: Not Much Difference with Israel on Iran Nuclear Assessment

U.S. President Barack Obama says there is not much difference between U.S. and Israeli assessments of how close Iran is to potentially developing a nuclear weapon.

Speaking alongside Israel's prime minister in Jerusalem Wednesday, Mr. Obama said he would not expect his host to defer any decisions about military action to another country - even a close ally such as the United States. He repeated the U.S. position that "all options" are on the table for stopping Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon but said there is still time to resolve the issue diplomatically.

Israel sees an Iranian nuclear weapon as a threat to its existence due to Tehran's calls for the destruction of the Jewish state. Iran insists that its nuclear program is designed only for peaceful research and electricity generation.

Mr. Netanyahu said he and Mr. Obama have a "common assessment" that it will take Iran about one year to make a nuclear bomb if it decides to do so. He said Iran's continued enrichment of uranium, a key ingredient of such a bomb, is a separate matter.

The Israeli prime minister said he believes that if Iran "gets through" the enrichment process, it will reach an "immunity zone" - a reference to a situation in which military action would not be able to stop it. In a speech to the United Nations last September, Mr. Netanyahu warned that Iran could reach such a "red line" by the middle of this year.

It was not clear if Mr. Obama shared the Israeli leader's view of the "immunity zone."

Earlier, Mr. Obama declared that America's alliance with Israel is "eternal" and "forever" as he began his first visit to the Jewish state since taking office.

In an arrival ceremony at Ben Gurion airport Wednesday, Mr. Obama said he made Israel the first overseas stop of his second term because wants to "reaffirm the unbreakable bond between our nations."

He also said he wants to speak directly to the people of Israel and their neighbors about his belief that "peace must come to the holy land."

Mr. Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres welcomed the U.S. president at the airport. The prime minister thanked Mr. Obama for defending what both have called "Israel's right to defend itself, by itself, against any threat."

The U.S. president later met with Mr. Peres in Jerusalem after being serenaded by Israeli children waving the flags of both nations.

Mr. Obama said he benefited from the Israeli president's views on how to deal with turmoil in the Arab world, the perceived "perils of a nuclear-armed Iran" and the "imperatives" of peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

"I reaffirmed to President Peres, as I will throughout my visit, that in this work, the state of Israel will have no greater friend than the United States. And the work we do in our time will make it more likely that the children we saw today, alongside children throughout the region, have the opportunity for security and peace and prosperity."

Speaking alongside Mr. Obama, the Israeli president said both nations are trying to restart Israeli negotiations with the Palestinians.

"We have already agreed that the goal is a two-state-for-two-peoples solution. There is no better one, more achievable one. We consider that the president of the Palestinian Authority Abu Mazen is our partner in that effort to stop terror and bring peace."

At the airport, Mr. Netanyahu showed Mr. Obama a battery of Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system that Washington has helped to fund. Israel used the Iron Dome to shoot down hundreds of rockets fired by Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip during an eight-day conflict last November.

Mr. Obama and Mr. Netanyahu have cited the Iron Dome as an example of "unprecedented" security cooperation between their nations.

Mr. Obama is set to travel to the West Bank on Thursday to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.

On Friday, his schedule includes talks with King Abdullah in Jordan, where the United States has been helping authorities to cope with a flood of refugees from the Syrian civil war.

In addition to the meetings, Mr. Obama is scheduled to visit a set of cultural and religious sites in the region, including seeing the Dead Sea Scrolls at the Israel Museum and a stop at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

Many Palestinians have said they are disappointed with Mr. Obama, and see little reason for optimism in his second term. There were scattered protests in the Palestinian territories on Wednesday ahead of Mr. Obama's arrival.

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