Obama confirms ‘evaluating options’ after Netanyahu’s ‘no Palestinian state’ pledge
Commenting on the Israeli elections for the first time after PM Netanyahu’s victory, US president Barack Obama made it clear that the US supports the two-state solution in the Israeli conflict despite the PM’s strong pre-election rhetoric.
The two-state solution is “the only way for the long-term security of Israel, if it wants to stay both a Jewish state and democratic,” US President said in his interview with Huntington Post.
The US president said that he had been “evaluating” his policy towards Israel in the wake of Benjamin Netanyahu’s re-election and campaign statements. The day before the March 17 elections Netanyahu made it clear that he wouldn’t allow the creation of a Palestinian state.
“I indicated to [Netanyahu] that given his statements prior to the election, it is going to be hard to find a path where people are seriously believing that negotiations are possible,” Obama said. “We indicated that...[this] kind of rhetoric was contrary to what is the best of Israel’s traditions.”
Although Netanyahu tried to soften his rhetoric after the elections, Obama apparently thinks that he meant what he said initially, so the White House is now considering other options available to make sure situation in the region does not become “chaotic.”
“We take him at his word when he said that it wouldn't happen during his prime ministership,” Obama stated.
Obama said that his team will take part in “close consultation” with the Knessett as Netanyahu forms his new coalition government. Meanwhile the US leader warned that continued construction of Israeli settlements is “unsustainable” for the status quo. “While taking into complete account Israel's security, we can’t just in perpetuity maintain the status quo, expand settlements. That's not a recipe for stability in the region.”
“We're going to make sure, regardless of disagreements we have on policy, that our military and intelligence cooperation to keep the Israeli people safe continues and that cooperation also helps the American people stay safe,” Obama added.
Keeping Israel safe involves a tense string of negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program, which Israel and Netanyahu in particular have always opposed.
But Obama doesn’t think that Netanyahu’s reelection will have any “significant impact” on the ongoing negotiations process, despite there being a “skepticism in Israel generally about Iran.” The bigger challenge for Obama will be to show not just the American people or the Israeli people but the whole world that there are “mechanisms in place that will prevent Iran from having a nuclear weapon.”