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Sources close to PM shrug off Obama's reported criticism
By HERB KEINON
01/15/2013
After US columnist quotes Obama as saying Israel under Netanyahu doesn't know what is in its best interest, sources say prime minister will continue preserving Israel's vital national security interests.
 
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will continue protecting Israel's vital national security interests, sources close to Netanyahu said Tuesday in response to sharp, pre-election criticism of Netanyahu's leadership attributed to US President Barack Obama.

The sources defined those interests as "first and foremost preventing Iran from achieving, nuclear military capability, refusing to return to the 1967 lines, and maintaining a united Jerusalem as Israel's capital."

Netanyahu "will continue to protect those interests" in the coming government that he will lead, the sources said. The sources noted that Obama himself has said Israeli-US defense and security cooperation were at unprecedented levels, something that was evident by the US support for the Iron Dome anti-missile system, and Washington's support for Israel during Operation Pillar of Defense.

Obama was quoted by US columnist Jeffrey Goldberg in Bloomberg as having said privately that "Israel doesn't know what its own best interests are." Goldberg, a sharp  critic himself of Netanyahu and the country's settlement policies, wrote that "with each new settlement announcement, in Obama's view, Netanyahu is moving his country down a path toward near isolation."

Goldberg wrote that Obama's comment came shortly after the UN General Assembly voted on November 29 to upgrade the Palestinian status, a move followed by Netanyahu's announcement that he would move forward plans to develop E1, and build 3,000 units in east Jerusalem and the settlement blocks.

According to Goldberg, Obama "told several people that sort of behavior on Netanyahu's part is what he has come to expect, and he suggested that he has become inured to what he sees as self defeating policies of his Israeli counterpart."

Goldberg, who is believed to have good White House contacts and was the journalist chosen by Obama last March to get across a message on Iran just before he addressed AIPAC and then met Netanyahu in the White House, wrote that "on matters related to the Palestinians, the president seems to view the prime minister as a political coward, an essentially unchallenged leader who nevertheless is unwilling to lead or spend political capital to advance the cause of compromise."

Goldberg wrote that he would not be surprise if Obama "eventually offered a public vision of what a state of Palestine should look like, and affirmed that it should have its capital in east Jerusalem." He also said Obama wants Netanyahu to recognize that Israel's settlement policies are dooming a two state solution, and to acknowledge this represents the best chance of preserving "the country as a Jewish-majority democracy."
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