McCain to Obama: Get over your temper tantrum over Netanyahu remarks

Republican Senator urges Obama to focus on the growing ISIS threat in the Middle East and curbing Iran's nuclear program.

March 22, 2015 16:14
4 minute read.
John McCain

John McCain. (photo credit: REUTERS)

It’s time for US President Barack Obama to get over his “temper tantrum” following Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s election victory, Sen. John McCain said Sunday, joining Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer in pushing back against US threats to reassess its relationship to the Mideast diplomatic process.

“Look, there was a free and fair democratic election, the only nation in the region that will have such a thing,” said McCain, the Republican senator from Arizona and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, on CNN.

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“The president should get over it,” he said. “Get over your temper tantrum, Mr.

President. It’s time that we work together with our Israeli friends and try to stem this tide of ISIS [Islamic State] and Iranian movement throughout the region, which is threatening the very fabric of the region.”

McCain’s statement followed by a day an interview Obama gave to the Huffington Post in which he continued to slam Netanyahu for saying on the eve of the election that a Palestinian state would not emerge under his tenure.

Even though Netanyahu has since backtracked from that statement and said he remains committed to a two-state solution, Obama said he told the premier in their phone conversation on Thursday 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. So we’re evaluating what’s taking place.”

Asked if there is any reason to believe Netanyahu is serious about a Palestinian state, Obama said, “We take him at his word when he said that it wouldn’t happen during his prime ministership, and so that’s why we’ve got to evaluate what other options are available to make sure that we don’t see a chaotic situation in the region.”

One of the options available, administration officials have made clear since the election, is not vetoing a UN Security Council resolution that would call – and perhaps try to impose – a twostate solution.

McCain warned that if Obama would support a UN Security Council resolution calling for a Palestinian state, something he said would contravene the basic Mideast policies of the last 10 presidents – Congress would “have to examine our funding for the United Nations.”

Dermer said in an interview on NBC’s Meet the Press that Israel is against “imposing any resolution through the United Nations.

Because the policy of the United States has been, for a very long time, that you need a negotiated settlement for this conflict.”

Dermer said that a UN two-state resolution would have negative ramifications.

“It will harden Palestinian positions.

And it will prevent us not only from having peace today, it could prevent peace for decades to come,” he said. “Because no Palestinian leader will move from those positions that are going to be put forward at the United Nations.”

McCain said that the least of Obama’s problems “is what Bibi Netanyahu said during an election campaign. If every politician were held to everything they say in a political campaign, obviously, that would be a topic of long discussion.”

McCain said Netanyahu’s campaign rhetoric “pales in comparison” to the direct threat Islamic State poses to the US. Obama’s focusing on Netanyahu’s statement, rather than on Islamic State and Iran, shows that the president has his priorities “screwed up,” he said.

Dermer, in his interview, also addressed the tension and controversy over Netanyahu’s comment.

Dermer reiterated that Netanyahu remains committed to the twostate solution as he laid out in his Bar-Ilan University speech in 2009, and that what has changed is not his commitment but the circumstances.

“We have a collapse of a 100- year order in the Middle East, and militant Islam is charging into the void,” he said. “That’s the first thing that changed.”

The second thing that changed, he said, is that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has formed an alliance with Hamas, which is committed to Israel’s destruction.

If Abbas breaks his alliance with Hamas and returns to negotiations where Israel’s legitimate security needs can be met, “then we can get back to the peace state.”

Dermer said that Netanyahu “didn’t say what the president and others seem to suggest that he’s saying” about turning his back on the two-state solution.”

Obama, in his interview with the Huffington Post, also took Netanyahu to task for his Election Day comment urging his supporters to vote by saying that Arab voters were going to the polls en masse.

Obama said that in his conversation with Netanyahu, he indicated that this “kind of rhetoric was contrary to what is the best of Israel’s traditions. That although Israel was founded based on the historic Jewish homeland and the need to have a Jewish homeland, Israeli democracy has been premised on everybody in the country being treated equally and fairly.

And I think that that is what’s best about Israeli democracy. If that is lost, then I think that not only does it give ammunition to folks who don’t believe in a Jewish state, but it also, I think, starts to erode the meaning of democracy in the country.”

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